Document Type


Publication Title

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page



Regional drought and flooding from extreme climatic events are increasing in frequency and severity, with significant adverse ecosocial impacts. Detecting and monitoring drought at regional to global scales remains challenging, despite the availability of various drought indices and widespread availability of potentially synergistic global satellite observational records. The authors have developed a method to generate a near-real-time remotely sensed drought severity index (DSI) to monitor and detect drought globally at 1-km spatial resolution and regular 8-day, monthly, and annual frequencies. The new DSI integrates and exploits information from current operational satellite-based terrestrial evapo-transpiration (ET) and vegetation greenness index [normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)] products, which are sensitive to vegetation water stress. Specifically, this approach determines the annual DSI departure from its normal (2000–11) using the remotely sensed ratio of ET to potential ET (PET) and NDVI. The DSI results were derived globally and captured documented major regional droughts over the last decade, including severe events in Europe (2003), the Amazon (2005 and 2010), and Russia (2010). The DSI corresponded favorably (correlation coefficient r = 0.43) with the precipitation-based Palmer drought severity index (PDSI), while both indices captured similar wetting and drying patterns. The DSI was also correlated with satellite-based vegetation net primary production (NPP) records, indicating that the combined use of these products may be useful for assessing water supply and ecosystem interactions, including drought impacts on crop yields and forest productivity. The remotely sensed global terrestrial DSI enhances capabilities for nearreal-time drought monitoring to assist decision makers in regional drought assessment and mitigation efforts, and without many of the constraints of more traditional drought monitoring methods.



© 2013 American Meteorological Society