Evaluating the utility of various drought indices to monitor meteorological drought in Tropical Dry Forests

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Even though existing remote-sensing-based drought indices are widely used in many different types of ecosystems, their utility has not been widely assessed in tropical dry forests (TDFs). The aim of this study is to evaluate the performance of three remote-sensing-based drought indices, the Vegetation Condition Index (VCI), Temperature Condition Index (TCI), and Vegetation Health Index (VHI), for meteorological drought monitoring in TDFs using the moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) products. The correlation between the VCI, TCI, and VHI and multiple time scales of the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) (1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24 months) for each month (January to December) and each season (dry season, dry-to-wet season, wet season and wet-to-dry season) were conducted using the Pearson correlation analysis. We also correlated year-to-year changes of satellite-based drought indices with the changes of the in situ annual SPI (A_SPI) which provides annual information on the mean meteorological drought. The analysis reveals that the ability of these remote-sensing-based drought indices for meteorological drought monitoring varies with timing, and the TCI outperforms the VCI and VHI in terms of seasonal and annual scale. These remote-sensing indices performed well in monitoring meteorological drought in the dry season, poorly in the in the dry-to-wet season, and moderately in the wet season. The TCI performed best in monitoring meteorological drought in the wet-to-dry period, followed by VHI, whereas the VCI performed worst. All of these remote-sensing-based drought indices failed to detect drought in May during the green-up period and in September, October, and November when the water content in the root regions was abundant. Our results indicate that the evapotranspiration of TDFs is more sensitive than canopy greenness to detect meteorological drought. Results from this study increase the ability to provide real-time drought monitoring and early warnings of drought in TDFs.

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Correspondence to Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa.

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Zou, L., Cao, S. & Sanchez-Azofeifa, A. Evaluating the utility of various drought indices to monitor meteorological drought in Tropical Dry Forests. Int J Biometeorol (2020) doi:10.1007/s00484-019-01858-z

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  • Meteorological drought
  • SPI
  • VCI
  • TCI
  • VHI
  • TDFs