Drought index

Definition of Drought Index

The numerical representation of drought intensity, as per a drought index, takes into account factors, namely precipitation, temperature, evapotranspiration rates, and soil moisture levels. Drought indices function to predict the potential impact on ecosystems, agriculture, and water resources of a given region. Various indices, due to their different natures, are more applicable to certain facets of drought analysis.

Common Drought Indices

Several indices have been developed to evaluate and keep track of drought severity. The following are some well-established indices:
Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) : This prevalent index provides a measure of the surplus or deficit in soil moisture over a certain period. The calculation relies on precipitation and temperature readings and specific soil attributes. The severity of a drought is then estimated on a scale from -6 (extreme drought) to +6 (extremely wet conditions).

Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) : This index, based exclusively on precipitation data, calculates the deficit or surplus of precipitation relative to the long-term average of a particular location and timescale. This period usually varies between 1 to 48 months. SPI values extend from -3 (extreme drought) to +3 (extremely wet conditions).

Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) : Predominantly utilized to assess wildfire susceptibility in drought conditions, KBDI estimates soil moisture deficit using maximum temperature and precipitation data recorded daily. The values of this index vary from 0 (no drought) to 800 (extreme drought).

Applications of Drought Indices

Drought Monitoring: Drought indices prove invaluable in monitoring drought onset, duration, and severity across various regions. These indices help to pinpoint areas experiencing unusual dryness or wetness, enabling early detection of possible drought-related effects.

Water Resource Management: By recognizing potential water shortages or surpluses, drought indices provide critical information for water resource management. This knowledge is instrumental in planning water distribution, fostering conservation efforts, and devising drought contingency plans.

Agriculture and Irrigation: Drought indices are useful to farmers and agricultural planners in assessing the potential drought-induced impacts on crop yields and irrigation requirements. Monitoring drought conditions fosters informed decision-making regarding crop planting, irrigation, and the deployment of drought-resistant crop species or farming techniques.

Limitations of Drought Indices

Data Availability: The precision and reliability of drought indices hinge on the quality and accessibility of input data, encompassing precipitation, temperature, and soil moisture data. In areas with inconsistent or insufficient data, drought indices might not depict an accurate or comprehensive portrayal of drought conditions.

Regional Variability: The efficacy of drought indices may not be uniform for all regions or all kinds of droughts. Certain indices may be more appropriate for specific environments or climates, demanding the careful selection of the right index based on location and intended use.

Multidimensional Nature of Drought: Drought is a complex phenomenon that incorporates physical, environmental, and socioeconomic dimensions. As no single drought index can encapsulate all facets of drought, using multiple indices or integrating them with other indicators is often required to gain a more holistic comprehension of drought conditions and their repercussions.
Updated: Jun 2, 2023
Published by: Weather Atlas | About Us