Monitoring drought across many scales Chris Funk As gas and food prices increase while per capita harvested area decreases, drought and disruptions in food availability exert more and more pressure on the political and economic stability of ‘frailed’ states. Improved drought monitoring across many spatial and temporal time scales has therefore become increasingly important. As this need mounts, so have our capacities to observe and understand the earth’s climate. Relatively new satellite systems, such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, allow us to watch the earth at scales of ~100 meters. Improved rainfall retrievals give us more timely and accurate observations of hydrologic extremes. Web-based mapping and analysis tools help us integrate and utilize this information in ‘actionable’ ways. Over the past few years, scientists at the US Geological Survey and the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazard Group have developed new monitoring datasets, tools and methods supporting the monitoring of drought across South America, Africa and Asia. This talk summarizes these new products, and sets out some general principles that will help us to identify agricultural droughts in rainfed environments. Special attention is given to monitoring and understanding low frequency changes in climate over and around the Indian Ocean during boreal spring and summer. This work links ‘bottom up’ evaluations of terrestrial drying trends with ‘top down’ diagnostic analyses tracing the associated changes in atmospheric thermodynamics and moisture transports. The resulting framework for ‘drought forensics’ is helping us to understand and prepare for near-term climate changes. As the south-central Indian Ocean (SIO) has warmed beneath rapid surface winds, SIO evaporation and rainfall have increased dramatically, setting up overturning circulations helping to lower rainfall across east Africa and India. Current collaboration with USAID links this research with climate adaptation and the identification of emergent at-risk populations.


climate, hazards, drought monitoring, global impacts, water deficits, food supplies

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