Global Drought Watch from Space

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  • 1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, Camp Springs, Maryland
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Drought is the most damaging environmental phenomenon. During 1967–91, droughts affected 50% of the 2.8 billion people who suffered from weather-related disasters. Since droughts cover large areas, it is difficult to monitor them using conventional systems. In recent years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has designed a new Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer- (AVHRR) based Vegetation Condition Index (VCI) and Temperature Condition Index (TCI), which have been useful in detecting and monitoring large area, drought-related vegetation stress. The VCI was derived from the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is the ratio of the difference between AVHRR-measured near-infrared and visible reflectance to their sum. The TCI was derived from the 10.3–11.3-μm AVHRR-measured radiances, converted to brightness temperature (BT). Algorithms were developed to reduce the noise and to adjust NDVI and BT for land surface nonhomogeneity. The VCI and TCI are used to determine the water- and temperature-related vegetation stress occuring during drought. This paper provides the principles of these indices, describes data processing, and gives examples of VCI–TCI applications in different ecological environments of the world. The results presented here are the first attempt to use both NDVI and thermal channels on a large area with very diversified ecological resources. The application of VCI and TCI are illustrated and validated by in situ measurements. These indices were also used for assessment of drought impact on regional agricultural production in South America, Africa, Asia, North America, and Europe. For this purpose, the average VCI–TCI values for a given region and for each week of the growing season were calculated and compared with yields of agricultural crops. The results showed a very strong correlation between these indices and yield, particularly during the critical periods of crop growth.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Felix N. Kogan, NOAA/NESDIS Room 712, NOAA Science Center, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746. E-mail: fkogan@orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov

Drought is the most damaging environmental phenomenon. During 1967–91, droughts affected 50% of the 2.8 billion people who suffered from weather-related disasters. Since droughts cover large areas, it is difficult to monitor them using conventional systems. In recent years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has designed a new Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer- (AVHRR) based Vegetation Condition Index (VCI) and Temperature Condition Index (TCI), which have been useful in detecting and monitoring large area, drought-related vegetation stress. The VCI was derived from the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is the ratio of the difference between AVHRR-measured near-infrared and visible reflectance to their sum. The TCI was derived from the 10.3–11.3-μm AVHRR-measured radiances, converted to brightness temperature (BT). Algorithms were developed to reduce the noise and to adjust NDVI and BT for land surface nonhomogeneity. The VCI and TCI are used to determine the water- and temperature-related vegetation stress occuring during drought. This paper provides the principles of these indices, describes data processing, and gives examples of VCI–TCI applications in different ecological environments of the world. The results presented here are the first attempt to use both NDVI and thermal channels on a large area with very diversified ecological resources. The application of VCI and TCI are illustrated and validated by in situ measurements. These indices were also used for assessment of drought impact on regional agricultural production in South America, Africa, Asia, North America, and Europe. For this purpose, the average VCI–TCI values for a given region and for each week of the growing season were calculated and compared with yields of agricultural crops. The results showed a very strong correlation between these indices and yield, particularly during the critical periods of crop growth.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Felix N. Kogan, NOAA/NESDIS Room 712, NOAA Science Center, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746. E-mail: fkogan@orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov
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