Recommended Practice: Drought monitoring using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI)

Observing rainfall is an essential component of detecting droughts and developing drought early warning systems. This recommended practice shows how to use satellite data to analyse precipitation timelines to gain information about the spatial ditribution of rainfall anomalies using the Standarized Precipitation Index (SPI).




The purpose of this recommended practice is to monitor precipitation anomalies giving the possibility to analyse past drought events and recent rainfalls.

Disaster type: 

Disaster Cycle Phase: 

  • Preparedness

Test Site: 

South Africa


Since 2018 several countries in southern Africa are facing an ongoing drought. As a result, crop- and livestock farmers had to face losses. Giving farmers, authorities and insurances information about the spatial distribution of drought like conditions and its severity might help to mitigate financial losses and anticipate the region-specific aid.


The methodology as such can be applied globally. However, the SPI values might give missleading information if the timescale for the SPI calculation is set too short due to natural fluctuations of precipitation.

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