Flash Drought Identification from Satellite-Based Land Surface Water Index

Flash droughts can lead to significant agricultural and ecosystem impacts via rapid land surface desiccation. While gridded weather and climate datasets, land surface models, or widely spaced in situ observations are typically used to quantify flash drought development, coarse spatial data limits the ability to determine fine-scale spatial evolution of flash drought at landscape and ecosystem scales. In this study, a novel approach is introduced to objectively identify flash drought using the land surface water index (LSWI) derived from satellite observations. LSWI is a water-related vegetation index that represents the total water content in vegetation by using the near-infrared and shortwave infrared bands. LSWI was derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra surface reflectance (MOD09A1) with a 500 m spatial resolution and an 8-day temporal resolution. When applied to two well-established case studies, LSWI anomalies were able to capture the temporal and spatial evolution of flash drought over Oklahoma during the years of 2011 and 2012. In addition, rapid changes of LSWI during flash drought were comparable across space and time to the reanalysis-based Standardized Evaporative Stress Ratio (SESR), while negative anomalies of LSWI following flash drought corresponded with drought impacts via the United States Drought Monitor. It was found that LSWI was able to identify flash drought with a finer spatial resolution (500 m) and revealed spatial propagation of flash drought events that would not otherwise be seen with coarser meteorological data (e.g., ∼32 km at the lowest latitude for the North American Regional Reanalysis data). Furthermore, LSWI greatly enhanced the ability to detect rapid changes in surface conditions driven by flash drought and was able to provide early warning for drought development when compared with the USDM across Oklahoma. As such, the temporal and spatial evolution of flash drought depicted by LSWI and the presented methodology improves our ability to identify flash drought at high spatial resolution using satellite remote sensing and detect rapid changes in surface conditions. In light of these results, the novel LSWI approach demonstrates that satellite remote sensing applications using an objective technique are advantageous for flash drought detection in near real-time and at fine spatial scales.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Last Updated July 28, 2023, 14:57 (UTC)
Created July 28, 2023, 14:56 (UTC)