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Drought monitoring and

early warning:
concepts, progress and future challenges
WMO - No. 1006
Weather and climate information for
sustainable agricultural development
WMO-No. 1006
2006, World Meteorological Organization
ISBN 92-63-11006-9
Cover illustration: Maasai tribesman walking through drought-stricken landscape, Kenya. Jonathan and Angela (Getty Images)
NOTE
The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever
on the part of the Secretariat of the World Meteorological Organization concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or
area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitations of its frontiers or boundaries.
1
Contents
Foreword . ....2
Introduction . ....4
Drought as a hazard: concepts and defnitions . ....6
Types of drought . . ....8
Characterizing drought and its severity . ..10
The challenges of drought monitoring and early warning . ..11
Integrated drought monitoring and delivery: the way forward . ..12
Drought monitoring activities: case studies . ..15
China . ..15
IGADClimatePredictionandApplicationsCentre(ICPAC). ..17
SouthAfrica. ..19
Portugal. ..20
Australia . ..23
Conclusion . ..24
2
FoReWoRD
Throughout the course of human history, drought
hasbeenaproblemaffectingourwelfareandfood
security.Ofallhumanendeavours,agriculturewas
perhaps the frst sector for which humans recog-
nized the strong relationships between crops and
weather.Short-termrainfalldefcitspromptedearly
humans to fnd alternative food crops. However,
evenasingleyearwithaseveredroughtduringthe
rainy season resulted in crop failures, which most
likelyledtohumansmigratingtootherareas.There-
fore,inearlyhumanhistory,evenlimiteddroughts
hadlargeimpacts.
In recent times, short-term drought adaptation
mechanismshaveimproved,butextendedperiods
of drought are now the main concern for human
welfareandfoodsecurity.Theseperiodsofdryness,
when coupled with other climatic factors, such as
extreme rainfall and wind events or unsustainable
agricultural and development patterns, can result
inlanddegradationand,ifunchecked,inincreases
in desert land areas or desertifcation. During the
1970s and 1980s, West Africa experienced an
extendedperiod of drought that led to widespread
concern about these issues The aggregate impact
ofdroughtcanbequitenegativeontheeconomies
of developing countries, in particular. For example,
GDPfellby8to9percentinZimbabweandZambia
in1992and4to6percentinNigeriaandNigerin
1984.Over250millionpeoplearedirectlyaffected
bylanddegradationanddesertifcation.Inaddition,
someonebillionpeopleinover100countriesareat
risk.Theyincludemanyoftheworldspoorestand
mostmarginalizedcitizens.Hence,combatingdeser-
tifcationisanurgentpriorityintheglobaleffortsto
ensurefoodsecurityandthelivelihoodsofmillions
ofpeoplewhoinhabitthedrylands.
Asvulnerabilitytodroughthasincreasedglobally,
greaterattentionhasbeendirectedtoreducingthe
risks associated with its occurrence through the
introduction of planning to enhance operational
capabilities such as climate and water supply
monitoringandbuildinginstitutionalcapacity,and
mitigationmeasuresthatareaimedatreducingthe
impactsofdrought.
Importantcomponentsofeffectivedroughtmanage-
ment are improved drought monitoring and early
warning systems. The fght against drought and
desertifcation receives a high priority in WMOs
Strategic Plan, particularly under the Agricultural
Meteorology Programme, the Hydrology and
Water Resources Programme and the Technical
Cooperation Programme. WMO actively involves
the National Meteorological and Hydrological
Services (NMHSs), the regional and sub-regional
meteorological centres and other bodies in the
improvement of hydrological and meteorological
networksforsystematicobservationsandexchange
and analysis of data. WMO also works closely with
other UN agencies and international organizations
to develop long-term strategies aimed at promot-
ing meteorological and hydrological activities that
contribute to better drought monitoring and use of
medium- and long-range weather forecasts and to
assistinthetransferofknowledgeandtechnology.
Atits58thordinarysession,theUnitedNationsGeneral
Assembly declared 2006 to be the International Year
of Deserts and Desertifcation (IYDD). In doing so,
the General Assembly underlined its deep concern
for the exacerbation of desertifcation, particularly
in Africa, and noted its far-reaching implications for
the implementation of the Millennium Development
Goals(MDGs),whicharetobemetbytheyear2015.
TheIYDDpresentsagoldenopportunitytoconveythe
message strongly and effectively in the sense that
issues of drought, land degradation and desertifca-
tion are global problems that must be addressed. It
also provides an impulse to strengthen the visibility
andimportanceofthedrylandsissueontheinterna-
tionalenvironmentalagenda,whileprovidingatimely
M. Jarraud, Secretary-General
3
reminder to the international community of the huge
challengesthatstilllieahead.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertif-
cation (UNCCD) and WMO have been longstanding
partners in developing and promoting the issues
related to drought monitoring, preparedness, miti-
gation, land degradation and desertifcation. As
part of its implementation activities for IYDD, WMO
has prepared this brochure to explain the various
concepts and challenges of drought monitoring and
early warning systems. This brochure also details
the considerable progress that has been made on
theseissuesinsomedrought-pronecountriesbyhigh-
lightingseveralcasestudiesfromaroundtheworld.
IwishtothankMrDonaldWilhite,DirectoroftheNational
Drought Mitigation Center and Professor of the School
of Natural Resources of the University of Nebraska
(USA),forpreparingthisinformativebrochure.Wehope
thatthisdocumentwillbeusefultocountrieslookingto
develop or enhance their own drought monitoring and
earlywarningcapabilities.
4
IntRoDUCtIon
Droughtisaninsidiousnaturalhazardcharacterized
bylowerthanexpectedorlowerthannormalprecip-
itationthat,whenextendedoveraseasonorlonger
period of time, is insuffcient to meet the demands
of human activities and the environment. Drought
is a temporary aberration, unlike aridity, which is a
permanentfeatureofclimate.Seasonalaridity,that
is, a well-defned dry season, also needs to be dis-
tinguished from drought, as these terms are often
confused or used interchangeably. The differences
needtobeunderstoodandproperlyincorporatedin
droughtmonitoringandearlywarningsystemsand
preparednessplans.
Drought must be considered a relative, rather than
an absolute, condition. It occurs in both high and
low rainfall areas and virtually all climate regimes.
Droughtisoftenassociatedonlywitharid,semi-arid
and sub-humid regions by scientists, policymakers
and the public. In reality, drought occurs in most
countries,inbothdryandhumidregions.Droughtis
anormalpartofclimate,althoughitsspatialextent
andseveritywillvaryonseasonalandannualtime-
scales.Inmanycountries,suchasAustralia,China,
India and the United States of America, drought
occurs over a portion of the country each year.
Owingtothefrequentoccurrenceofdroughtandthe
profound impacts associated with it, governments
shoulddevotemoreattentiontothedevelopmentof
anationalstrategyorpolicytoreduceitseconomic,
social and environmental consequences. A criti-
cal component of that strategy is a comprehensive
drought monitoring system that can provide early
warning of droughts onset and end, determine its
severityanddeliverthatinformationtoabroadclien-
teleinmanyclimate-andwater-sensitivesectorsina
timelymanner.Withthisinformation,theimpactsof
droughtcanbereducedoravoidedinmanycases.
Drought is a regional phenomenon and its charac-
teristics differ from one climate regime to another.
A few examples of the contrasting temperature and
precipitationregimesofvariousregionsareshownin
Figure 1. Drought occurs in each of these locations,
but characteristics such as frequency and duration
vary appreciably. New Delhis precipitation pattern
isdistinctlymonsoonal,withmaximumprecipitation
occurring from June to October, with the greatest
concentration in July, August and September. Tunis
has a distinctly Mediterranean-type (dry summer)
climateregime.Nairobisprecipitationdistributionis
distinctlybi-modal,withpeakrainfallexpectedfrom
March through May and a second concentration in
November and December. Londons precipitation
is evenly distributed throughout the year. In each
example,asignifcantdeparturefromtheseregimes
foranextendedperiodoftimewillresultinimpactsin
climate-andwater-sensitivesectors.Impactsarealso
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regionalinnature,refectingexposuretothehazard
and the vulnerability of society to extended periods
ofprecipitationdefcits.Impactsareameasureofvul-
nerability.Riskisaproductofexposuretothehazard
andsocietalvulnerability.
Droughtbyitselfisnotadisaster.Whetheritbecomes
a disaster depends on its impact on local people,
economiesandtheenvironmentandtheirabilityto
copewithandrecoverfromit.Therefore,thekeyto
understanding drought is to grasp its natural and
social dimensions. The goal of drought risk man-
agement is to increase societys coping capacity,
leading to greater resilience and a reduced need
forgovernmentordonorinterventionsintheform
of disaster assistance. Drought monitoring and
early warning are major components of drought
riskmanagement.
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Figure 1. Climographs illustrating monthly temperature and precipitation regimes for New Delhi, Tunis, Nairobi and London.
(Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, University of NebraskaLincoln, USA)
New Delhi
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Temperature
Precipitation
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Economic impacts Social impacts
Soil water deficiency
Environmental impacts
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Natural climate variability
Increased evaporation
and transpiration
Plant water stress, reduced
biomass and yield
Reduced infiltration, runoff,
deep percolation and
groundwater recharge
Reduced streamflow, inflow to
reservoirs, lakes, and ponds;
reduced wetlands,
wildlife habitat
High temperatures, high winds,
low relative humidity, greater
sunshine, less cloud cover
Precipition deficiency
(amount, intensity, timing)
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DRoUght as a hazaRD:
ConCepts anD DeFInItIons
Drought differs from other natural hazards in vari-
ous ways. Drought is a slow-onset natural hazard
thatisoftenreferredtoasacreepingphenomenon.
Itisacumulativedeparturefromnormalorexpected
precipitation, that is, a long-term mean or average.
This cumulative precipitation defcit may build up
quicklyoveraperiodoftime,oritmaytakemonths
before the defciency begins to appear in reduced
streamfows,reservoirlevelsorincreaseddepthto
thegroundwatertable.Owingtothecreepingnature
of drought, its effects often take weeks or months
toappear(Figure2).Precipitationdefcitsgenerally
appearinitiallyasadefciencyinsoilwater;therefore,
agricultureisoftenthefrstsectortobeaffected.
It is often diffcult to know when a drought begins.
Likewise, it is also diffcult to determine when a
drought is over and according to what criteria this
determinationshouldbemade.Isanendtodrought
heralded by a return to normal precipitation and, if
so,overwhatperiodoftimedoesnormal orabove
normal precipitation need to be sustained for the
droughttobedeclaredoffciallyover?Sincedrought
represents a cumulative precipitation defcit over
an extended period of time, does the precipitation
defcit need to be erased for the event to end? Do
reservoirs and groundwater levels need to return
to normal or average conditions? Impacts linger for
aconsiderableperiodoftimefollowingthereturnof
normalprecipitation.Therefore,istheendofdrought
signalledbymeteorologicalorclimatologicalfactors,
or by the diminishing negative impact on human
activitiesandtheenvironment?
Anotherfactorthatdistinguishesdroughtfromother
naturalhazardsistheabsenceofapreciseanduni-
versally accepted defnition. There are hundreds of
defnitions,addingtotheconfusionabouttheexist-
ence of drought and its degree of severity. Defni-
tions of drought should be region and application
specifc or impact specifc. Droughts are regional
inextentand,aspreviouslystated,eachregionhas
specifcclimaticcharacteristics.Droughtsthatoccur
in the North American Great Plains will differ from
Figure 2. Sequence of drought occurrence and impacts for commonly accepted drought types.
All droughts originate from a defciency of precipitation or meteorological drought but other types of drought and impacts
cascade from this defciency. (Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, University of NebraskaLincoln, USA)
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those in Northeast Brazil, southern Africa, Western
Europe, eastern Australia or the North China Plain.
The amount, seasonality and form of precipitation
differwidelybetweeneachoftheselocations.
Temperature, wind and relative humidity are also
important factors to include in characterizing
drought from one location to another. Defnitions
alsoneedtobeapplicationspecifcbecausedrought
impactswillvarybetweensectors.Droughtconjures
differentmeaningsforwatermanagers,agricultural
producers,hydroelectricpowerplantoperatorsand
wildlifebiologists.Evenwithinsectors,therearemany
differentperspectivesofdroughtbecauseimpactsmay
differmarkedly.Forexample,theeffectsofdrought
on crop yield may vary considerably for maize,
wheat, soybeans and sorghum because they are
planted at different times during the growing sea-
son and do not have the same water requirements
andsensitivitiestowaterandtemperaturestressat
variousgrowthstages.
Drought impacts are non-structural and extend
overalargergeographicalareathandamagesthat
result from other natural hazards such as foods,
tropical storms and earthquakes. This, combined
withdroughtscreepingnature,makesitparticularly
challenging to quantify impacts and even more
challenging to provide disaster relief for drought
than for other natural hazards. These characteris-
tics have hindered the development of accurate,
reliable and timely estimates of the severity and
impacts, such as drought early warning systems
and ultimately, the formulation of drought prepar-
edness plans. Similarly, it is diffcult for disaster
offcialstaskedwithrespondingtodroughttodeal
with the large spatial coverage usually associated
withitsoccurrence.
1
8
types oF DRoUght
Droughtsarecommonlyclassifedbytypeasmeteo-
rological, agricultural, hydrological and socio-
economic.
Meteorological droughtisusuallydefnedbyapre-
cipitationdefciencythresholdoverapredetermined
periodoftime.Thethresholdchosen,suchas75per
centofnormalprecipitation,anddurationperiod,for
example, six months, will vary by location accord-
ingtouserneedsorapplications.Figure3illustrates
threecharacterizationsofdroughtforthreedifferent
countries based on precipitation departures from
normal, deciles and the Standardized Precipitation
Index (SPI). Meteorological drought is a natural
eventandresultsfrommultiplecauses,whichdiffer
from region to region. Agricultural, hydrological
andsocio-economicdrought,however,placegreater
emphasisonthehumanorsocialaspectsofdrought,
highlightingtheinteractionorinterplaybetweenthe
natural characteristics of meteorological drought
and human activities that depend on precipitation
toprovideadequatewatersuppliestomeetsocietal
andenvironmentaldemands.
Agricultural drought is defned more commonly by
theavailabilityofsoilwatertosupportcropandfor-
age growth than by the departure of normal pre-
cipitationoversomespecifedperiodoftime.There
Figure 3. Meteorological drought expressed as percentage departure from normal precipitation for India, precipitation deciles for
Australia and the Standardized Precipitation Index for Canada. (Sources: Indian Meteorological Department, Australian Bureau of
Meteorology and Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration and Agriculture Canada, respectively)
Figure 4. Interrelationships between meteorological, agricultural,
hydrological and socio-economic drought. (Source: National
Drought Mitigation Center, University of NebraskaLincoln, USA)
Meteorological
Decreasing emphasis on the natural event
(precipitation deficiencies)
Increasing emphasis on water/natural resource management
Increasing complexity of impacts and conflicts
Time/duration of the event
Agricultural Hydrological
Socio-economic
and political
9
is no direct relationship between precipitation and
infltration of precipitation into the soil. Infltra-
tion rates vary, depending on antecedent moisture
conditions, slope, soil type and the intensity of the
precipitation event. Soil characteristics also differ:
somesoilshaveahighwater-holdingcapacitywhile
othersdonot.Thelatteraremorepronetoagricul-
turaldrought.
Hydrological droughtisevenfurtherremovedfrom
the precipitation defciency since it is normally
defned by the departure of surface and subsur-
facewatersuppliesfromsomeaverageconditionat
various points in time. Like agricultural drought,
thereisnodirectrelationshipbetweenprecipitation
amounts and the status of surface and subsurface
watersuppliesinlakes,reservoirs,aquifersandstreams
becausethesehydrologicalsystemcomponentsare
usedformultipleandcompetingpurposes,suchas
irrigation, recreation, tourism, food control, trans-
portation,hydroelectricpowerproduction,domestic
watersupply,protectionofendangeredspeciesand
environmental and ecosystem management and
preservation. There is also a considerable time lag
betweendeparturesofprecipitationandthepointat
whichthesedefcienciesbecomeevidentinsurface
and subsurface components of the hydrologic sys-
tem.Recoveryofthesecomponentsisslowbecause
oflongrechargeperiodsforsurfaceandsubsurface
water supplies. In some drought-prone areas, such
as the western United States, snow pack accumu-
latedduringthewintermonthsistheprimarysource
ofwaterduringthesummer.Reservoirsincreasethe
resilienceofthisregiontodroughtbecauseoftheir
ability to store large amounts of water as a buffer
duringsingle-ormulti-yeardroughtevents.

Socio-economic droughtdiffersmarkedlyfromthe
other types of drought because it refects the
relationship between the supply and demand for
somecommodityoreconomicgood,suchaswater,
livestock forage or hydroelectric power, that is
dependentonprecipitation.Supplyvariesannually
as a function of precipitation or water availability.
Demandalsofuctuatesandisoftenassociatedwith
apositivetrendasaresultofincreasingpopulation,
developmentorotherfactors.
Theinterrelationshipbetweenthesetypesofdrought
is illustrated in Figure 4. Agricultural, hydrological
and socio-economic drought occur less frequently
thanmeteorologicaldroughtbecauseimpactsinthese
sectorsarerelatedtotheavailabilityofsurfaceand
subsurface water supplies. It usually takes several
weeks before precipitation defciencies begin to
producesoilmoisturedefcienciesleadingtostress
on crops, pastures and rangeland. Continued dry
conditionsforseveralmonthsatatimebringabout
a decline in stream fow and reduced reservoir
and lake levels and, potentially, a lowering of the
groundwatertable.Whendroughtconditionspersist
for a period of time, agricultural, hydrological and
socio-economicdroughtoccur,producingassociated
impacts. During drought, not only are infows to
recharge surface and subsurface supplies reduced
but demand forthese resourcesincreases dramati-
callyaswell.AsshowninFigure4,thedirectlinkage
betweenthemaintypesofdroughtandprecipitation
defcienciesisreducedbecausewateravailabilityin
surfaceandsubsurfacesystemsisaffectedbyhow
these systems are managed. Changes in the man-
agement of these water supplies can either reduce
or aggravate the impacts of drought. For example,
the adoption of appropriate tillage practices and
planting more drought-resistant crop varieties can
diminishtheimpactofdroughtsignifcantlybycon-
servingsoilwaterandreducingtranspiration.
10
ChaRaCteRIzIng DRoUght anD Its seveRIty
Droughts have three distinguishing features: inten-
sity, duration and spatial coverage. Intensity refers
tothedegreeoftheprecipitationshortfalland/orthe
severityofimpactsassociatedwiththeshortfall.Itis
generallymeasuredbythedeparturefromnormalofa
climaticparametersuchasprecipitation,anindicator
suchasthereservoirleveloranindexsuchasSPI.
Anotheressentialcharacteristicofdroughtisitsdura-
tion. Droughts can develop quickly in some climatic
regimes, but usually require a minimum of two to
threemonthstobecomeestablished.Onceadrought
begins,itcanpersistformonthsoryears.Themag-
nitude of drought impacts is closely related to the
timingoftheonsetoftheprecipitationshortage,its
intensityandthedurationoftheevent.Forexample,
adrywintermayhavefewimpactsinmanymiddle
latitude,temperateclimatesbecauseofthereduced
demandforwaterduringthosemonths.Developing
a better understanding of the frequency, duration
andspatialextentofdroughtfromthepaleo-record,
for example, tree rings or lake sediments, can be
very instructive because it provides planners with
critically important information from periods out-
sideoftheinstrumentalperiodofrecord.
Droughts also differ in their spatial characteristics.
Theareasaffectedbyseveredroughtevolvegradu-
ally,andregionsofmaximumintensity,suchasepi-
centres,shiftfromseasontoseasonandyeartoyear
in the event of multi-year droughts. In larger coun-
tries, such as Brazil, China, India, the United States
orAustralia,droughtwouldrarely,ifever,affectthe
entirecountry.During1934,oneofthemostsevere
droughtyearsinUnitedStateshistory,65percent
of the country was affected by severe or extreme
drought (Figure 5). That was the maximum spatial
extentofdroughtbetween1895and2005.
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Figure 5. Percentage of the United States affected by severe to
extreme drought, January 1895 to May 2006.
(Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, University of
NebraskaLincoln, USA; based on data from the National Climatic
Data Center/NOAA)
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11
the Challenges oF DRoUght monItoRIng anD
eaRly WaRnIng
Adroughtearlywarningsystemisdesignedtoiden-
tify climate and water supply trends and thus to
detect the emergence or probability of occurrence
and the likely severity of drought. This information
can reduce impacts if delivered to decision makers
inatimelyandappropriateformatandifmitigation
measures and preparedness plans are in place.
Understandingtheunderlyingcausesofvulnerability
isalsoanessentialcomponentofdroughtmanage-
mentbecausetheultimategoalistoreduceriskfora
particularlocationandforaspecifcgroupofpeople
oreconomicsector.
There are numerous natural drought indicators
thatshouldbemonitoredroutinelytodeterminethe
onset and end of drought and its spatial character-
istics. Severity must also be evaluated on frequent
time steps. Although all types of droughts originate
fromaprecipitationdefciency,itisinsuffcienttorely
solelyonthisclimateelementtoassessseverityand
resultant impacts because of factors identifed
previously.Effectivedroughtearlywarningsystems
must integrate precipitation and other climatic
parameterswithwaterinformationsuchasstream
fow, snow pack, groundwater levels, reservoir
and lake levels, and soil moisture into a compre-
hensiveassessmentofcurrentandfuturedrought
andwatersupplyconditions.
Monitoring drought presents some unique chal-
lengesbecauseofitsdistinctivecharacteristics.Some
ofthemostprominentchallengesareasfollows:
Meteorologicalandhydrologicaldatanetworks
areofteninadequateintermsofthedensityof
stationsforallmajorclimateandwatersupply
parameters. Data quality is also a problem
becauseofmissingdataoraninadequatelength
ofrecord;
Data sharing is inadequate between govern-
ment agencies and research institutions, and
the high cost of data limits their application in
drought monitoring, preparedness, mitigation
andresponse;

Information delivered through early warning


systemsisoftentootechnicalanddetailed,lim-
itingitsusebydecisionmakers;
Forecasts are often unreliable on the seasonal
timescale and lack specifcity, reducing their
usefulnessforagricultureandothersectors;
Drought indices are sometimes inadequate for
detectingtheearlyonsetandendofdrought;
Drought monitoring systems should be inte-
grated, coupling multiple climate, water and
soilparametersandsocio-economicindicators
tofullycharacterizedroughtmagnitude,spatial
extentandpotentialimpact;
Impact assessment methodologies, a critical
part of drought monitoring and early warning
systems, are not standardized or widely avail-
able,hinderingimpactestimatesandthecrea-
tion of regionally appropriate mitigation and
responseprogrammes;
Deliverysystemsfordisseminatingdatatousers
in a timely manner are not well developed,
limitingtheirusefulnessfordecisionsupport.
12
IntegRateD DRoUght monItoRIng anD
DelIveRy: the Way FoRWaRD
Acomprehensiveandintegratedapproachisrequired
to monitor drought more effectively and provide
earlywarning.Thecollectionofclimaticandhydro-
logicdataisfragmentedbetweenmanyagenciesor
ministries in most countries. Often these data are
not reported in a timely fashion. Automating the
data collection process can substantially improve
thetimelinessandreliabilityofdroughtmonitoring
andearlywarningsystems.
The analysis of climate and water data is most
effective when it is coordinated under a single
authority. This authority could be an agency or
ministryoraninter-agencyauthorityandwouldbe
responsibleforanalysingdataandproducinguseful
endproductsordecision-supporttoolsfordelivery
to end users. Stakeholders must be involved from
the early stages of product development to ensure
that the information will serve their varied timing
andcontentneeds.Adeliverysystemshouldrefect
theneedsofthisdiverseclientele.TheInternetisthe
most cost-effective way to deliver information, but
it is inappropriate in many settings. A combination
of Internet, extension, print and electronic media
deliverymayberequiredinmanyinstances.
Todate,monitoringandearlywarningsystemshave
been based on a single indicator or climatic index.
Recent efforts to improve drought monitoring and
early warning in the United States and other coun-
tries have provided new early warning and deci-
sion-supporttoolsandmethodologiesinsupportof
droughtpreparednessplanningandpolicydevelop-
ment.Thelessonslearnedcanbehelpfulmodelsfor
other countries to follow as they try to reduce the
impacts of future droughts. An effective monitor-
ing,earlywarninganddeliverysystemcontinuously
trackskeydroughtandwatersupplyindicatorsand
climate-based indices and delivers this information
todecisionmakers.Thisallowsfortheearlydetec-
tion of drought conditions and timely triggering of
mitigation and emergency response measures, the
mainingredientsofadroughtpreparednessplan.
Untilrecently,acomprehensive,integrateddrought
monitoring, early warning and delivery system
did not exist in the United States. Between 1996
and 2006, severe droughts have been widespread
in their occurrence and have affected most of the
country,reinforcingtheneedforamorehighlyinte-
gratedmonitoringandearlywarningsystem.During
this period, many regions have been affected over
several consecutive years and on more than one
occasion. Some regions of the country have experi-
enced as many as fve to seven consecutive years of
drought. These drought events have highlighted the
defciencies of the nations drought monitoring
efforts and the need to develop a more coordinated
approachthatwouldmakeoptimumuseoftheInternet
for data sharing and analysis, communication and
product delivery. In 1999 the National Oceanic and
AtmosphericAdministration(NOAA),theUnitedStates
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National
Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University
ofNebraskaLincolnformedapartnershipaimedat
improvingthecoordinationanddevelopmentofnew
droughtmonitoringtools.TheUnitedStatesDrought
Monitor(USDM)becameanoperationalproducton
18August1999.USDMismaintainedontheNDMC
website (http://www.drought.unl.edu/index.htm),
which has become a web-based portal for drought
andwatersupplymonitoring(Figure6).
USDM successfully integrates information from
multiple parametersclimate indices and indica-
torsandsourcestoassesstheseverityandspatial
extent of drought in the United States on a weekly
basis.Itisablendofobjectiveanalysisandsubjec-
tiveinterpretation.Thismapproducthasbeenwide-
lyacceptedandisusedbyadiversesetofusersto
trackdroughtconditionsacrossthecountry.Itisalso
used for policy decisions on eligibility for drought
assistance.USDMrepresentsaweeklysnapshotof
currentdroughtconditions.Itisnotintendedtobea
forecast.Thisassessmentincludesthe50USstates,
Pacifc possessions and Puerto Rico. The product
Figure 6. US Drought Monitor website. (Source: National
Drought Mitigation Center, University of NebraskaLincoln, USA,
http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm)
13
consistsofacolourmap,showingwhichpartsofthe
UnitedStatesaresufferingfromvariousdegreesof
drought,andaccompanyingtext.Thetextdescribes
the droughts present impacts, future threats and
prospectsforimprovement.USDMisbyfarthemost
user friendly national drought monitoring product
availableintheUnitedStatestoday.TheInternetis
currently the primary distribution vehicle, although
themapalsoappearsinlocalandnationalnewspa-
pers and on television. Figure 7 illustrates the pat-
ternofdroughtconditionsacrosstheUnitedStates
from 2002 to 2005. A single weekly map illustrates
the drought pattern in each year. All USDM maps
since1999arearchivedonthewebsiteandavailable
tousersforcomparison.
Sincenosingledefnitionofdroughtisappropriate
inallsituations,agriculturalandwaterplannersand
othersmustrelyonavarietyofdataorindicesthat
are expressed in map or graphic form. The USDM
authors rely on several key indicators and indices,
such as the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI),
the Standardized Precipitation Index, stream fow,
vegetationhealth,soilmoistureandimpacts.Ancil-
lary indicators such as the Keetch-Byram Drought
Index,reservoirlevels,SurfaceWaterSupplyIndex,
Figure 7. Spatial extent and severity of drought conditions in the United States, 2002 to 2005, as per the US Drought Monitor.
(Source: http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm)
14
riverbasinsnowwaterequivalent,andpastureand
range conditions from different agencies are inte-
gratedtocreatethefnalmap.Electronicdistribution
ofearlydraftsofthemaptofeldexpertsthroughout
the country provides excellent ground truth for the
patterns and severity of drought illustrated on the
mapeachweek.
USDMclassifesdroughtsonascalefromonetofour
(D1D4), with D4 refecting an exceptional drought
eventsuchasa1in50-yearevent.Affthcategory,
D0, indicates an abnormally dry area. The USDM
map and narrative identify general drought areas,
labelling droughts by intensity from least to most
intense.D0areasareeitherheadingintodroughtor
recovering from drought but still experiencing lin-
geringimpacts.
USDM also shows which sectors are presently ex-
periencing direct and indirect impacts, using the
labels A (agriculture: crops, livestock, pasture and
grasslands), and H (hydrological) and/or W (water
supplies).Forexample,anareashadedandlabelled
asD2(A)isingeneralexperiencingseveredrought
conditions that are affecting the agricultural sector
moresignifcantlythanthewatersupplysector.The
mapauthorsarecarefulnottobringanareaintoor
out of drought too quickly, recognizing the slow-
onset characteristics of drought, the long recovery
processandthepotentialforlingeringimpacts.
The methodology associated with USDM has now
beenappliedtotheproductionoftheNorthAmerican
Drought Monitor (NADM), a collaborative project
between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Thepartnershipbeganin2002inanattempttomap
drought severity and spatial patterns across the
North American continent. Figure 8 illustrates the
NADM for May 2006. Multiple indices and indica-
torsareusedtomapdroughtconditions,similarto
theprocedureusedtogeneratetheUSDM.Respon-
sibility for this product is shared between NOAAs
National Climatic Data Center, the US Department
of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation
CenterattheUniversityofNebraskaLincolninthe
United States; the National Water Commission in
Mexico; and Environment Canada and Agriculture
andAgri-FoodCanada.Thisproductispreparedon
amonthlybasisandisanexcellentexampleofinter-
nationaldroughtmonitoringcooperation.
Figure 8. North American Drought Monitor, May 2006. (Source: North American Drought Monitor,
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/monitoring/drought/nadm/index.html)
15
Figure 8. North American Drought Monitor, May 2006. (Source: North American Drought Monitor,
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/monitoring/drought/nadm/index.html)
DRoUght monItoRIng aCtIvItIes: Case stUDIes
Considerable progress is being made in drought
monitoring and early warning systems in many
countries. The increased emphasis on improving
these systems is largely the result of the mounting
impacts of drought, refecting greater societal vul-
nerability.Heightenedmonitoringcapability,includ-
ing the expansion of automated weather station
networksandsatellitesandtheInternetarecontrib-
utingtosuchimprovements.TheInternetallowsfor
improved access to critical data and information to
assist in climate and drought assessments and the
deliveryofthisinformationthroughawiderangeof
toolsordecision-supportproductstousersinmany
sectors.Afewexamplesfromvariouscountriesare
includedtoillustratesomeoftheapproachesbeing
takenindrought-proneregions.
ChIna
The authority that monitors drought development
in China is the Beijing Climate Center (BCC) of the
ChinaMeteorologicalAdministration(CMA).BCChas
usedtheStandardizedPrecipitationIndexsince1995
tomonitordroughtoccurrenceanddevelopmentin
Chinaona10-daybasis.Themonitoringresultsare
published in the ChinaDrought Monitoring Bulletin
issued by BCC. Between 1995 and 1999, a Chinese
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drought monitoring and early warning system was
developed and put into operation on a daily basis
in1999.Thissystemprovidesaccurateinformation
on drought to various related governmental agen-
cies and to the general public, which helps in the
developmentofmeasurestomitigatetheimpactsof
drought.ThecoreofthesystemisaComprehensive
Index(CI)fordroughtmonitoringdevelopedbyBCC
asaresultofitslongexperienceindroughtmonitor-
ingandimpactassessment.
CIisafunctionofthelast30-dayand90-daySPIand
the corresponding potential evapotranspiration.
Based on CI and soil moisture monitoring from
an agricultural meteorological station network
and remote-sensing-based monitoring from CMAs
NationalSatelliteMeteorologicalCenter,anumber
of drought monitoring products have being
produced:

BulletinofChinaDroughtMonitoring,whichtar-
getsgovernmentalagenciesandispublishedat
varyingintervals;
A drought monitoring and impact assessment
briefng,broadcastonCCTVeveryWednesday
since2004;
Daily drought monitoring maps, which have
been available on the BCC homepage since
February2003(http://www.bcc.cma.gov.cn/en).
Figures 9 to 11 provide examples of drought moni-
toring products such as drought monitoring maps,
soilmoistureassessmentandremote-sensing-based
products.SpringdroughtinNingxiaprovincein2006
hadasignifcantimpactonthewinterwheatcrop.
Figure 9. Drought monitoring for China, 9 June 2006; the colour
scale from eggshell (in the middle) to red indicates increasing drought
severity. (Source: China Meteorological Administration)
Figure 10. Soil moisture monitoring of the top 20 cm of soil from
21 to 31 May 2006. The higher the values, the wetter the soil.
(Source: China Meteorological Administration)
Figure 11. Remote-sensing-based drought monitoring for 1 to 8 June 2006.
The colour scale on the left from blue to brown indicates the degree of
drought severity. (Source: China Meteorological Administration)
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IGaD ClImaTe PreDICTIon anD aPPlICaTIons
CenTre (ICPaC)
The Greater Horn of Africa, like many parts of the
tropics, is prone to extreme climate events such as
droughts and foods. In an effort to minimize the
negative impacts of extreme climate events, WMO
and the United Nations Development Programme
established the regional Drought Monitoring Centre
(DMC)inNairobiandasub-centreinHararein1989
covering 24 countries in the eastern and southern
Africansubregion.In2003,DMCNairobibecameaspe-
cializedinstitutionoftheIntergovernmentalAuthority
onDevelopment(IGAD)andwasrenamedtheIGAD
Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC).
The participating countries of ICPAC are Burundi,
Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia,
Sudan,UgandaandUnitedRepublicofTanzania.The
Centreisresponsibleforclimatemonitoring,predic-
tion,earlywarningandapplicationsforthereduction
ofclimate-relatedrisksintheGreaterHornofAfrica.
ICPACsmainobjectiveistocontributetoclimatemoni-
toring and prediction services for early warning and
mitigation of the adverse impacts of extreme climate
eventsonvarioussocio-economicsectorsintheregion,
suchasagriculturalproductionandfoodsecurity,water
resources,energyandhealth.Theearlywarningprod-
uctsenableuserstoputmechanismsinplaceforcoping
withextremeclimate-andweather-relatedrisksinthe
Greater Horn of Africa. The Centre also promotes
capacity-buildingforbothclimatescientistsandusers.
ICPACprovidesregularregionalclimateadvisories,
including10-day,monthlyandseasonalclimatebul-
letinsaswellastimelyearlywarninginformationon
evolving climate extremes and associated impacts.
Regional Climate Outlook Forums are also being
heldbeforetheonsetofthemajorrainfallseasonsto
provideconsensusclimateoutlooksandtodevelop
mitigationstrategies.Belowaresomeoftheactivi-
tiesundertakenbyICPAC:
Development and archiving of regional and
nationalquality-controlledclimatedatabanks;
Data processing, including development of
basicclimatologicalstatistics;
Timelyacquisitionofnearreal-timeclimateand
remotelysenseddata;
Monitoring space-time evolutions of weather
andclimateextremesovertheregion;
Generationofclimatepredictionandearlywarn-
ingproducts;
Delineation of risk zones of extreme climate-
relatedevents;
Timelydisseminationofearlywarningproducts;
Conducting capacity-building activities in the
generationandapplicationofclimateproducts;
Organization of climate outlook forums for the
countriesintheGreaterHornofAfrica;
Enhancementofinteractionswithusersthrough
userworkshopsandpilotapplicationprojects;
Climate change monitoring, detection and
attribution.
18
Figures 12 to 14 illustrate a range of climate- and
drought-relatedproductsproducedbyICPAC(http://
www.icpac.net). The products depict cumulative
rainfall deviations from the mean for Marsabit,
Kenya; a regional climate outlook map; and a map
illustrating the food security outlook for the coun-
triesintheGreaterHornofAfrica,respectively.
Mean
2005/2006
35
45
20
33
33
33
20
45
35
20
45
35
35
45
20
33
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33
35
45
20
I
II
IV
V
VI
VII
VIII
III
Sudan
Rwanda
Uganda
Burundi
Ethopia
Somalia
Kenya
United Republic
of Tanzania
Eritrea
Djibouti
Figure 12. Examples of cumulative decadal rainfall over parts of Kenya from June 2005 to early April 2006. (Source: ICPAC)
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Marsabit, Kenya
Decads
JUN1 JUN3 JUL2 AUG1 AUG3 SEP2 OCT1 OCT3 NOV2 DEC1 DEC3 JAN2 FEB1 FEB3 MAR2 APR1 APR3 MAY2
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
Figure 13. Climate outlook for the Greater Horn of Africa,
March to May 2006. (Source: ICPAC)
Figure 14. Food security outlook for the Greater Horn of Africa,
September to December 2005. (ICPAC)
A Above normal
N Normal
B Below normal
Percentage probability
Extremely food insecure
Highly food insecure
Moderately food insecure
19
souTh aFrICa
Droughtisanormal,recurrentfeatureoftheSouth
African climate. Droughts have in the past resulted
in signifcant economic, environmental and social
impacts and highlight the countrys continuing vul-
nerability with regard to this natural phenomenon.
During low rainfall periods, policymakers, agricul-
turalists, businesses and the general public often
require additional rainfall data for decision-making
andplanning.
InresponsetorecurringdroughtinSouthAfrica,the
SouthAfricanWeatherService(SAWS)establisheda
drought monitoring desk where information regard-
ingobservedrainfallandlong-rangeforecastscould
be presented in one place for easy access. It also
provides an opportunity for people to compare the
current years rainfall with amounts from previous
dryperiodstoassistthemintheirdecisionandplan-
ningpractices.
Neither the percentage of normal nor the decile-
based drought indices can assist decision makers
with the assessment of the cumulative effect of
reduced rainfall over various time periods. Neither
of these indices can describe the magnitude of the
drought compared with other drought events. SPI
can alleviate both of these principal shortcomings
while at the same time being less complex to cal-
culate than some of the other drought indices now
in use at the South African Weather Service. SPI is
anindexbasedontheprobabilityofrainfallforany
timescale;itcanbeusefulinassessingtheseverity
of drought and can be calculated at various time-
scales that refect the impact of the drought on the
availabilityofwaterresources.TheSPIcalculationis
based on the distribution of rainfall over long time
periods, preferably more than 50 years. The long-
termrainfallrecordisfttoaprobabilitydistribution,
which is then normalized so that the mean SPI for
anyplaceandtimeperiodiszero.SPIvaluesabove
zero indicate wetter periods and values less than
zeroindicatedrierperiods.
On23November2005,theDepartmentofAgriculture
issuedareportindicatingthateightofSouthAfricas
nine provinces were being severely affected by
drought,theexceptionbeingthedenselypopulated
Gauteng province, a minor player in agriculture. At
thattime,thenorthernmostprovince,Limpopo,had
had districts fagged as disaster areas since 2003
and 2004, with 27 of its 37 municipalities affected.
Thedamsoftheprovincewereattheirlowestlevels,
anaverageof36percentofcapacity,comparedwith
64percentthepreviousyear.
Theseverityofthesituationwasclearlyrefectedin
thedifferenttimescalesoftheSPImapsontheSAWS
Drought Monitoring Page (http://www.weathersa.
co.za/DroughtMonitor/DMDesk.jsp), updated at the
beginningofDecember2005.Averydrywinterand
the lack of good spring rains exacerbated the dry
conditionsinsomeareas.
ThemainrainfallfeaturesinNovember2005werenear
normalrainfallovermostofSouthAfrica,butwetcondi-
tionsoverpartsoftheWesternCape,theEasternCape,


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KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga (Figure 15, top).
According to available data, no part of the country
received rainfall much below the normal value for
themonth.
FromSeptembertoNovember2005,therewassome
alleviation of the dry conditions in the northern
provincesaswellasthefarsouth(Figure15,middle).
However,somedrynessremainedinthenorthernmost
province,Limpopo.
The rainfall for the six-month period, as shown by
theSPImapforJunetoNovember2005,showsnear
normal conditions over the largest part of South
Africa, but moderate to very dry conditions in several
areas, most notably in the Southern Cape, southern
partsoftheNorthernCapeandthefarnorth(Figure15,
bottom).EventhoughsomepartsofLimpoporeceived
good rains during November 2005, there was still a
strainonwaterresources.
PorTuGal
ThePalmerDroughtSeverityIndexisusedtochar-
acterize drought in Portugal. This index has been
adapted and calibrated to the specifc climatic con-
ditions of mainland Portugal. The PDSI performs a
parameterizedcomputationofthesoilwaterbalance
and compares the estimated soil moisture content
withitsclimatologicalmean.
Evolving drought patterns are presented in monthly
PDSImapsthatshowthespatialdistributionofdrought
in Portugal. These maps are used to monitor spatial
and temporal variations in drought across mainland
Portugal,whichishelpfulindelineatingpotentialdis-
asterareasforagricultureandothersectors,allowing
forimprovedon-farmdecisionstoreduceimpacts.
The20042005hydrologicalyearbeganwithfavour-
able amounts of precipitation in October, except in
the southern region, where it was dry to normal.
The months that followed were dry to extremely
dry, resulting in the development of a very intense
drought. Figure 16 and Table 1 show the monthly
PDSI variations expressed as percentages of area
affected in mainland Portugal. In addition, they
reveal a deterioration of drought conditions during
thewintermonths,withsomeattenuationinMarch
because of the occurrence of precipitation in the
countrysnorthernandinnerregions.During June,
Figure 15. Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) for South Africa,
November 2005 (top); September to November 2005 (middle); June to
November 2005 (bottom). (Source: South African Weather Service)
Extreme drought
Severe drought
Moderate drought
Mild drought
21
Palmer Drought
Severity Index
(PDSI)
area affected by drought in 20042005 (per cent)
2004 2005
31
Oct
30
Nov
31
Dec
31
Jan
28
Feb
31
March
30
April
31
May
30
June
31
July
31
Aug
30
Sept
31
Oct
30
Nov
31
Dec
moderately wet 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
slightly wet 47 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 5 5
normal 22 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 12 11
mild drought 20 47 30 0 0 26 15 4 0 0 0 0 52 81 83
moderate drought 5 47 48 25 23 22 22 28 3 0 0 3 36 2 1
severe drought 1 5 20 53 44 28 20 20 33 27 29 36 0 0 0
extreme drought 0 0 2 22 33 24 43 48 64 73 71 61 0 0 0
July and August, the drought situation worsened.
Thesemonthsnormallycontribute,onaverage,only
6 per cent of the annual precipitation. Precipitation
Table 1. Percentage of mainland Portugal affected by drought in 2004 and 2005. (Source: Instituto de Meteorologia, I.P., Portugal)
P
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OCT-04
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NOV-04 DEC-04 JAN-05 FEB-05 MAR-05 APR-05 MAY-05 JUN-05 JUL-05 AUG-05 SEP-05 OCT-05 NOV-05
40
60
80
DEC-05
Figure 16. Percentage of Portugal affected by drought, October 2004 to December 2005. (Source: Instituto de Meteorologia, I.P., Portugal)
Extreme drought
Severe drought
Moderate drought
Mild drought
Normal
Slightly wet
Moderately wet
Very wet
Extremely wet
received during the frst 15 days of September
lessenedtheseverityofdroughtinthenorthernand
centralregions.
22
Period
affected population
With
supplemented
water
With
cuts/reduction
insupply
1
st
half april 14175 213
1
st
half may 8395 2635
1
st
half June 26500 26781
2
nd
half June 23440 25217
1
st
half July 26004 26350
2
nd
half July 54831 53312
1
st
half august 48500 60061
2
nd
half august 94372 100500
1
st
half september 73097 66127
2
nd
half september 69588 39429
2
nd
half october 48883 30083
2
nd
half november 11921 13354
2
nd
half December 10238 13445
maximum 94 372 100 500
Table 2. Number of people affected directly or indirectly by drought
in Portugal, 2005. (Source: Instituto de Meteorologia, I.P., Portugal)
Figure 18. Number of municipalities with supplemented water (blue) or cuts/reduction in household supply (red). (Source: Instituto de
Meteorologia, I.P., Portugal)
Figure 17. Spatial representation of consecutive months in severe
and extreme drought situations in Portugal, October 2004 to
September 2005. (Source: Instituto de Meteorologia, I.P., Portugal)
Figure17showsthenumberofconsecutivemonths
in severe and extreme drought through the end of
September2005.
Theimpactsofthedroughtonagriculture,energyand
urban water supply were signifcant. Figure 18 illus-
tratestheseimpactsontheurbanwatersupply.The
numberofpeopleaffectedbydroughtfromAprilto
December2005,asshowninTable2,isalsoagood
indicatorofthewidespreadimpactsassociatedwith
thisdroughtevent.
N
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15 MAR
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10
15 APR 15 MAY 15 JUN 30 JUN 15 JUL 31 JUL 15 AUG 31 AUG 15 SEP 30 SEP 31 OCT 30 NOV 31 DEC
20
30
40
50
60
Municipalities with supplemented water
Municipalities with cuts/reduction in water supply
23
Figure 19. The extent of serious or worst rainfall defciencies at the
peak of the last El Nio-related drought in 2002 and 2003.
(Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology)
the peak of the last El Nio-related drought during
20022003.
Althoughanextendedperiodofrainfalldefciencyin
anyareaisvirtuallyaprerequisitefordrought,there
iswidespreadrecognitioninAustraliathattheformal
declaration of a drought is a more complex issue.
It involves consideration not only of the rainwater
supplybutalsothesubsequentusesforthatrainfall
onceithasfallenontofarmlands,runsintostreams
andrivers,isstoredindams,isusedtodrivehydro-
electricpowerstationsandissuppliedtocitiesand
townsacrossthenation.Furthermore,giventhesize
andgeographicallocationofAustralia,itisunusual
fortherenottobeoneormoreareasofvaryingsize
at any given time experiencing serious or severe
rainfall defciencies. Whether or not such areas are
declared drought stricken and then whether the
droughtisofsuffcientintensity,durationandextent
forthoseaffectedtobeeligibleforgovernmentrelief
involvesacomplexseriesofassessmentsbynational
andstateauthorities.
The recognition that drought is a normal feature
of Australias natural, economic, and social environ-
mentshasledthenationalandstategovernmentsto
agreethatclimate-sensitiveindustriesandenterpris-
esmustlearntomanagedroughtrisk,alongwithall
theotherattendantandongoingrisksthattheyface.
Nonetheless, the governments do recognize that,
fromtimetotime,somedroughtsbecomesosevere,
chronic or widespread that there is a need to offer
supporttothoseworstaffected.Suchoccurrencesin
Australiaarecalledexceptionalcircumstances.
In 20022003 Australia experienced an especially
severe and widespread drought, accompanied by
recordhightemperaturesinmanyregions.Atthepeak
ofthedrought,57percentoftheAustralianmainland
hadregistered10monthsormoreofserioustosevere
cumulativerainfalldefcits,and90percent,belowthe
median(Figure19).Withtheexperienceofthedrought
freshinmind,andalsorecognizingtheneedforamore
objective, fair and transparent process underpinning
the declaration of exceptional circumstances, the
Primary Industries Ministerial Council of Australia in
2005commissionedtheestablishmentoftheNational
AgriculturalMonitoringSystem(NAMS).
NAMSwasdevelopedoverthenext12monthsunder
the leadership of the Bureau of Rural Sciences in
collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology and
ausTralIa
TheislandcontinentofAustraliastraddlesthesouth-
ern subtropical zone, with its mainland extending
from around 11S across the Top End to 39S in
thesouth-east.Thenorthernregionsareseasonally
tropicalwhiletheeastern,south-easternandsouth-
western coasts and near inland regions are gener-
allywellwateredbutpronetohighinterannualand
seasonalvariabilityintheirrainfall.Themoreinland
regions range from arid to semi-arid. Droughts,
sometimes covering vast tracts of the continent,
are a recurring feature of Australias climate. Many
of the more severe and widespread droughts are
associatedwithElNioevents.
Given that rainfall is by far the dominant factor
determiningthesuccessorfailureofthegrowing
seasonacrossAustralia,droughtmonitoringhasfor
many years been synonymous with the monitor-
ingofrainfalldefciencies.TheAustralianBureauof
MeteorologysDroughtWatchService,inoperation
since1965,hasusedaccumulatedrainfallpercentiles
oversuccessivemonthstoidentifyregionsofrainfall
defcitandexcess.Areaswithrainfallaccumulations
belowthe10thor5thpercentileforperiodsofthree
months or more are referred to as being seriously
or severely in defcit,respectively. Figure 19 shows
theextentofseriousorworserainfalldefcienciesat
rainfall defciencies: 10 months
1 april 2002 to 31 January 2003
Distributionbasedongriddeddata
ProductoftheNationalClimateCentre
Serious deficiency
Severe deficiency
Lowest on record
Rainfall percentile ranking
24
Drought affects more people than any other natural
disaster and results in serious economic, social and
environmental costs. The development of effective
drought monitoring, early warning and delivery
systems has been a signifcant challenge because
of the unique characteristics of drought. Signifcant
strideshavebeenmadeinrecentyearstoimprovethe
effectiveness of these systems. With the increasing
frequencyandseverityofdroughtinmanyregionsof
the world and increased societal vulnerability, more
emphasisisnowbeingplacedonthedevelopmentof
droughtpreparednessplansthatareproactiverather
thanreactiveandemphasizerisk-basedmanagement
measures. Improved drought monitoring is a key
component of a drought preparedness plan and a
national drought policy. Early warning systems can
provide decision makers with timely and reliable
accesstoinformationonwhichmitigationmeasures
canbebased.Therearemanychallengestoimprov-
ing these systems, but a comprehensive, integrated
approach to climate and water supply monitoring is
provingtobesuccessfulinmanycountries.
theCommonwealthScientifcandIndustrialResearch
Organization(CSIRO).Theoutcomeisafreelyacces-
sible website containing current maps, graphs and
reports on the state of the climate system across
Australia, and information on production for major
drylandbroad-acreagriculturalsystems.Aswellas
currentdata,NAMSalsocontainshistoricalinforma-
tion on measured and modelled production, fnan-
cialimpacts,remote-sensingindicesandclimate.
TheNAMSwebsitepresentsinformationonscreen
andintheformofprintablereports,providinggen-
eral background, current climatic conditions and
production and resource statistics for regions that
can be specifed by the user. Regions can range in
sizefromtheentirecountrytoindividuallocalgov-
ernmentareasorthestatisticallocalareasusedfor
summarizingAustraliancensusdata.
Collectively, NAMS information shows the status
of current conditions for the major agricultural
production systems and production prospects for
the upcoming growing season. NAMS is initially
directed at monitoring and supplying data for dry-
landbroad-acreindustries,withplanstoextendthe
system to cover the extensive irrigated regions of
Australiaandalsoformoreintensiveindustriessuch
ashorticulture.
AsNAMSdrawsonacommoninformationdatabase
for the entire country, it will facilitate a more con-
sistentapproachtothedroughtdeclarationprocess
throughtheuseofthefollowing:
Acommontemplateandlanguagefordescrib-
ingdroughtintermsofprobabilities;
Acommonsetofdeclarationcriteria;
A common process for the subjective on-
groundassessmentofdroughtimpacts.
The NAMS website is at http://www.nams.gov.au.
DetailedinformationonAustraliasnationaldrought
assistance measures, including the declaration of
exceptional circumstances, can be found at http://
www.daff.gov.au/droughtassist, while information
ontherainfalldefciencymonitoringsystemcanbe
found at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/drought/
drought.shtml.
ConClUsIon