Drought events pose a threat to crop productivity and may cause socioeconomic impacts such as decreased farmer income, and may even result in the need for international food aid. While several drought information and early warning systems are operational, they usually do not sufficiently integrate across variables and drought indicators and lack information on socioeconomic factors that strongly affect drought impacts.

The goal of the proposed project “GlobeDrought” is therefore to develop, test and implement a drought information system for comprehensively characterizing drought events and their impact on water resources, crop productivity, food trade and the need for international food aid. Drought risk will be characterized in a spatially explicit manner by considering the components drought hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Indicators for meteorological, hydrological and agronomic droughts, obtained by combining remote sensing with hydrological and crop modeling and with analysis of precipitation data, will be integrated for quantifying drought hazard. Exposure and vulnerability will be quantified based on socioeconomic data. Drought risk will be validated by using information on drought impacts, changed trade flows and required emergency aid.

The analyses at global scale will be complemented by more detailed analyses for heavily drought affected regions, in particular Southern Africa. These analyses will be performed in close cooperation with regional stakeholders. The regional studies also facilitate validation of estimated drought risks by regional data than will partially be obtained by surveys on the ground. The drought information system will be developed in a co-design process in which stakeholders and users contribute to the definition of the content (indicators) and technical design of the system.

The web-based system will provide drought information 1) at the global scale and 2) for selected regions, as a prototype. The historical component of the drought information system (period until 2015) is essential to develop the methodology and to better understand dynamics and trends in drought hazards and impacts. The experimental early warning component will show the current drought situation and thus allow a drought monitoring, and it will simulate probabilistic drought forecasts for the next year. With the early warning component, the drought information system will become relevant for important user groups. The experimental early warning system can become the basis for a comprehensive operational drought early warning system.