Beyond a Shadow of a Drought II: Monitoring Severity from Space

EarthzineAssessing Drought and Water Availability, DEVELOP 2015 Summer VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session

This is an article from the Summer 2015 VPS. For more VPS articles, click here


Drought severity for April 2014. Image Credit: Navajo Nation Climate II Team

Category:åÊAssessing Drought and Water Availability

Project Team: Navajo Nation Climate II

Team Location: NASA Ames Research Center ‰ÛÒ Mountain View, California


Cheryl Cary

Michael Gao

Vickie Ly

Anton Surunis

Sophie Turnbull-Appell


Dr. J. W. Skiles (NASA Ames Research Center)

Dr. Venkat Lakshmi (University of South Carolina)

Amber Brooks (DEVELOP National Program, Ames Research Center)


The Navajo Nation, a 65,700-square-kilometer Native American territory located in the southwestern United States, has been increasingly impacted by severe drought events and changes in climate. These events are coupled with a lack of domestic water infrastructure and economic resources, leaving approximately one-third of the population without access to potable water in their homes. Current methods of monitoring drought are dependent on state-based monthly Standardized Precipitation Index value maps calculated by the Western Regional Climate Center. However, these maps do not provide the spatial resolution needed to illustrate differences in drought severity across the vast Nation. To better understand and monitor drought events and drought regime changes in the Navajo Nation, this project created a geodatabase of historical climate information specific to the area, and a decision-support tool to calculate average Standardized Precipitation Index values for user-specified areas. The tool and geodatabase use Tropical Rainfall Monitoring Mission (TRMM) and Global Precipitation Monitor (GPM) observed precipitation data and Parameter-elevation Relationships on Independent Slopes Model modeled historical precipitation data, as well as NASA’s modeled Land Data Assimilation Systems deep soil moisture, evaporation, and transpiration data products. The geodatabase and decision-support tool will allow resource managers in the Navajo Nation to utilize current and future NASA Earth observation data for increased decision-making capacity regarding future climate change impact on water resources.

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