Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions are rolling out a new satellite-based drought severity index for climate watchers worldwide. Relying on data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission, the index adds terrestrial water storage groundwater to drought assessments, augmenting commonly used tools most often based on the amount of precipitation. Reliable information on drought conditions is of utmost importance to climate and meteorological scientists and government officials – and to assess drought impacts on vegetation, food production and water resources. The data-set for the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment drought severity index covers 2002 to 2014 but will be extended with the ongoing current mission and the GRACE follow-on mission scheduled to be launched in early 2018. GRACE has been shown to accurately characterize drought events over the past decade on a par with such other metrics as the Palmer drought severity index and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index. The GRACE-DSI is exceptionally reliable because it’s based solely on satellite gravity observations, which enables it to provide globally consistent drought monitoring, even in places where ground readings are difficult to obtain. The new index tracks groundwater storage changes, which affect soil moisture recharge and drought recovery. Again, this new technique allows the climate community to draw a more thorough picture of the impact of drought in any corner of the world. In the past, they had a way of assessing meteorological drought by measuring precipitation and surface water. With GRACE-DSI, they now have the ability to better observe and characterize hydrological drought, which factors in all the water in the system. (Source: ScienceDaily)

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