Space and time variability of meteorological drought in Syria

Abstract

This study assesses the spatial and temporal characteristics (e.g., frequency, intensity, spatial extent) of meteorological drought in Syria. Specifically, drought was characterized using the observed rainfall data from 36 rain gauges spanning the period between 1990 and 2010 and covering the main climatic regions in Syria (i.e., Mediterranean, arid, semiarid and mountainous). Meteorological drought was assessed using the standardized precipitation index (SPI) at 12-month timescale, allowing for detecting the impacts of climate variability on agricultural droughts. The dominant modes of drought were defined using an S-mode of the principal component analysis. To assess the links between meteorological drought evolution and vegetation greening in Syria, the time series of SPI were correlated with the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Time series of NDVI were retrieved from the remotely sensed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer (NOAA/AVHRR) sensor at a spatial resolution of 25 km for the common period 1990–2010. Trend analysis suggests a statistically significant increase in the frequency and intensity of drought at 12-month timescale. The observed intensification of meteorological drought is mostly associated with the increase in mild and moderate droughts, relative to extremes and very extreme droughts. Results also suggest a statistically significant decrease (p < 0.05) in vegetation greening over Syria during the study period, especially in the eastern parts of the country. Our results demonstrate that the decrease in vegetation cover can directly be linked to the anomalous drought events, with Pearson’ r coefficients generally above 0.6. This dependency was more highlighted during wintertime for the Mediterranean vegetation and in northeastern portions of the country. Overall, the increase in the frequency and intensity of meteorological drought, combined with a series of unrest and political instability, have drastic impacts on the agricultural sector in Syria, with serious implications for crop yield.

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Acknowledgment

The authors are grateful to the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) for providing rainfall data used in this study. This work was supported by the Higher Education Institutional Excellence Programme of the Ministry of Human Capacities in Hungary, within the framework of the thematic programme of the University of Debrecen, and the projects “GINOP-2.2.1-15-2016-00001- Developing a scale independent complex precision consultancy system” and “EFOP-3.6.3-VEKOP-16-2017-00008”. A. El Kenawy, T. Al- Awadhi and Y. Sherief were funded by Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), the Sultanate of Oman, as a part of the HM Trust Fund (Strategic Project no. SR/ART/GEOG/17/01).

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Correspondence to Ahmed M. El Kenawy.

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Mohammed, S., Alsafadi, K., Al-Awadhi, T. et al. Space and time variability of meteorological drought in Syria. Acta Geophys. 68, 1877–1898 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11600-020-00501-5

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Keywords

  • SPI
  • NDVI
  • Spatiotemporal patterns
  • Climate change
  • NOAA-AVHRR
  • Vegetation
  • Syria