EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Response of vegetation indices to drought in western Spain

Elia Quirós1 and Laura Fragoso-Campón2
Elia Quirós and Laura Fragoso-Campón
  • 1Universidad de Extremadura, Escuela Politécnica, Expresión Gráfica, Caceres, Spain (
  • 2Universidad de Extremadura, Escuela Politécnica, Construcción, Caceres, Spain (

Drought is a transitory anomaly, prolonged, characterised by a period with precipitation values lower than normal in a specific area. The initial cause of any drought is a shortage of precipitation (meteorological drought) which leads to a shortage of water resources (hydrological drought) necessary to supply the existing demand. Flash drought is a critical sub-seasonal phenomenon that can be devasted for the ecosystems and, consequently, for general economy and health. There are areas where droughts are more devastating, and Spain is in a medium risk zone. In addition to water supplies, one of the first elements where the effects of droughts are first felt is on vegetation. Recent studies have addressed the relationship between NDVI and drought events. They concluded that, although vegetation activity over large parts of Spain is closely related to the interannual variability of drought, there are clear seasonal differences in the response of the NDVI to drought.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) categorises various drought indices into different groups such as (a) meteorology, (b) soil moisture, (c) hydrology, (d) remote sensing and (e) composite or modelled. Within the group of indices that can be defined by remote sensing, it points out some indices as possible predictors or evaluators of drought periods such us the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI). However, WMO leaves open the use of other possible VIs for drought prediction or assessment. In the current scenario, where there are multiple vegetation indices that can be used from satellite imagery, the initial objective of the study is to establish, from a set of VIs proposed or not by the WMO, which ones have the highest correlation with drought events in the study area. This correlation will be analysed according to vegetation type  (using the categorisation of the recently published ESA World cover map), in order to attempt to determine the behaviour of the vegetation index under meteorology according to each type. The study area is located in the Extremadura region of western Spain. The mean annual precipitation of the zone ranges from 446 to 1323 mm. The precipitations occur mainly from October to April while June, July and August suffer a significant drought with none or close to zero precipitation amount. The land cover types are mainly forests, agricultural and impervious cover. Regarding the temporal extent, two episodes of severe drought (2005-2006 and 2021-2022) will be studied.

Firstly, the vegetation indices available in open collections like OpenEO or Copernicus Global Land Service will be used. All available indices will be used to create time series to be compared with meteorological time series. Once the correlation is established, it will be analysed according to the type of coverage of the World cover map, in order to establish which index correlates better with drought episodes and thus try to establish the best predictor/evaluator.

How to cite: Quirós, E. and Fragoso-Campón, L.: Response of vegetation indices to drought in western Spain, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-7644,, 2023.