Press Release

NOAA’s satellites reveal drought conditions in 20 percent of the world

By SpaceRef Editor
October 4, 2001
Filed under , ,

A new satellite-based method for early detection, monitoring and analysis
of drought shows that nearly 20 percent of the world’s landmass has been
stricken by drought over the past two years, according to scientists at
the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists at NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and
Information Service in Camp Springs, Md., used solar radiation detected
from an instrument onboard NOAA’s polar orbiting satellites, called the
Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer. The solar radiation was observed
in three wavelengths of the solar spectrum — visible, near infrared and
thermal — to study vegetation health, moisture, and thermal conditions.

“Satellite data are important to our understanding of the world’s climate,
particularly in regions of the world where routine surface measurements
are sometimes difficult to obtain,” said Felix Kogan, the NOAA scientist
who developed the new drought detection methodology. “This method has
been tested worldwide for eight years and has proven to be an excellent
vehicle for early drought detection and monitoring, as well as for
assessing the impacts of droughts.”

NOAA is providing information on drought to customers around the world.
Many countries in Africa, Asia and North America experienced the effects
of two-year droughts.

Long, intensive spring and summer dryness developed in the southern and
western United States (and neighboring regions of Canada) during 2000
and 2001 with Texas experiencing severe droughts. Satellite data
identified large areas in the Northwest that were vulnerable to intensive
fire activity. During the two-year period, active fires consumed large
areas of forested land.

In the Horn of Africa, early drought signs were recorded in January 2000.
Over the next four months, the drought expanded and intensified, creating
food shortages and outbreak of disease that affected millions of
inhabitants in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and other regions.

In Asia, crop producing regions and rangelands of Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Iran, India, Mongolia and China were severely hit by spring and summer
dryness during 2000 and 2001. The worst situation was observed in
Afghanistan and Pakistan where approximately 60 and 40 percent of these
countries, respectively, suffer from intensive drought in 2001. Unusual
summer dryness also affected countries in the Caspian Sea region.

The new method of drought detection and monitoring has been recognized
by the global scientific and operational community and has been
publicized by the American Meteorological Society, UN-based organizations
and international remote sensing publications. NOAA’s data are widely
distributed to the United States and global institutions provided
through the NOAA Web site:

NESDIS is the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and
climate data. NESDIS operates the nation’s environmental satellites,
which are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and other
environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring, and
sea surface temperature measurements. NESDIS also operates three data
centers, which house global data bases in climatology, oceanography,
solid earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial
physics and paleoclimatology.

To learn more about NESDIS, please visit

Relevant Web Sites

* NOAA’s Vegetation and Temperature Condition Index

* NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

* NOAA’s Polar-orbiting Satellites

* NOAA’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer

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World moisture and thermal conditions taken on September 30, 2001.

SpaceRef staff editor.