Drought

Lake Chad has shrunk dramatically over the last four decades due to a decrease in rainfall and an increase in the amount of water used for irrigation projects. Its surface area was 25 000 sq km in the early 1960s, compared with 1350 sq km in 2001. Image acquired 19 December 2007 by the MERIS (Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) instrument aboard ESA’s Envisat satellite. Image: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Definition

Drought may be considered in general terms a consequence of a reduction over an extended period of time in the amount of precipitation that is received, usually over a season or more in length. It is a temporary aberration, unlike aridity, which is a permanent feature of the climate. Seasonal aridity (i.e., a well-defined dry season) also needs to be distinguished from drought. It should be noted that drought is a normal, recurrent feature of climate, and it occurs in virtually all climatic regimes (UNDDR).

Facts and figures

Droughts are often predictable: periods of unusual dryness are normal in all weather systems. Advance warning is possible (WHO).

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water stressed conditions (UNCCD).

Drought can be defined according to meteorological, agricultural, hydrological and socio-economic criteria.

  • Meteorological, when precipitation departs from the long-term normal
  • Agricultural, when there is insufficient soil moisture to meet the needs of a particular crop at a particular time. Agricultural drought is typically evident after meteorological drought but before a hydrological drought
  • Hydrological, when deficiencies occur in surface and subsurface water supplies
  • Socio-economic, when human activities are affected by reduced precipitation and related water availability. This form of drought associates human activities with elements of meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological drought (FAO).

Related content

News

Tropical cyclone Fani over the eastern coast of India on 2 May 2019. Image: NASA.

According to the latest issue of an annual disaster statistics report, floods were the deadliest type of disasters in 2019, followed by extreme... read more

Publishing date: 20/08/2020
Areas flooded and damaged following cyclone Idai, northwest of Beira. Image: European Union/Christian Jepsen.

In recent years, Mozambique has suffered severe floods and droughts that have impacted urban and rural communities throughout the country. In the March and April 2019, tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth triggered major floods in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Comoros.  The Port of Beira was hard hit, as cyclone Idai destroyed transmission lines and bridges, leaving the port without access to these lifelines for several days.   In contrast the powerful El Niño event of 2016 triggered major droughts that affected most of the country. Thousands of farmers lost their crops and their cattle and had to rely on humanitarian assistance to cope with the impacts of this event.

Taking into consideration the benefits of the use of... read more

Publishing date: 10/08/2020
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Sentinel 3. Image: ESA.

A new project of the European Space Agency (ESA) aims to combine data from two different Copernicus Sentinel missions to provide estimates of... read more

Publishing date: 31/07/2020
Central-pivot agricultural fields along the Orange River in South Africa. Image: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016), processed by ESA.

A grantmaking collective committed to creating and mobilizing labeled datasets that facilitate the development of machine learning applications to address urgent problems has launched a new request for proposals (RFP) for funding. Lacuna Fund, which aims to support as many organizations as possible in using artificial intelligence for social good in low- and middle-income contexts, focuses on agriculture, health and languages. This latest request for proposals will fund labeled agricultural datasets for machine learning in sub-Saharan Africa, whether referenced to Earth observation data or related to other aspects of the crop and animal agricultural system.

Interested organizations headquartered in Africa or having a substantial partnership with organization(s) headquartered in Africa can submit their applications until 3 September 2020. Further details are available... read more

Publishing date: 29/07/2020
Report cover page. Image: UNESCAP.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has published a policy study concerning the impending climate risk scenarios in South Asia and their intersection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this report is to facilitate policy actions that could protect communities at risk as well as to lay the foundations of resilient recovery of the most vulnerable in South Asia. 

ESCAP has published two additional reports this year, one on the “Impact and Policy Responses for COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific”, which presents an initial assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia and sub-regional... read more

Publishing date: 23/07/2020
Image: UNFPA.

In the latest example of anticipatory humanitarian action, the United Nations released $5.2 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help communities in Bangladesh prepare themselves ahead of major monsoon floods. The allocation of funds to agencies in the country to prepare to deliver support was triggered by a forecast from the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), which predicted areas having a greater than 50 per cent chance of experiencing a severe flood between 14 and 16 July. Following a second forecast by the Government’s Flood Forecasting & Warning Centre (FFWC) on 11 July, aid workers began distributing the aid.

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Publishing date: 21/07/2020

Data Source

Advisory Support

UN-SPIDER conducted a Institutional Strengthening Mission in Sri Lanka from 24 to 28 April 2017. Th ISM was a follow-up to the technical advisory mission to Sri Lanka in 2011. Both the original mission and the follow-up activity were hosted by the Ministry of Disaster Management of Sri Lanka and its associated Disaster Management Centre.

Mission dates: 24/04/2017 to 28/04/2017

This mission was conducted with the Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs as a way to strengthen the link between the National Emergency Commission of the Dominican Republic and UN-SPIDER, and took place from 18 July 2016 to 22 July 2016 in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Mission dates: 18/07/2016 to 22/07/2016

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