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The evaluation and quantification of the drought propagation process using satellite earth observation products.

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Droughts can be categorized in four types namely, meteorological, agricultural, hydrological and socio-economic drought. Droughts have the potential to occur either as an isolated event, mutually exclusive event or through the progression from one form to another. The use of drought indices were recognized as an approach capable evaluating and monitoring the characteristics of the different drought types. The aim of this study is to evaluate and quantify drought characteristics as it evolves and propagates form meteorological to agricultural drought, within two climatically different regions within South Africa, namely the uMngeni Catchment and the Breede-Overberg Catchment. These areas generally have insufficient networks of ground-based observations to provide continuous and long-term data. Therefore, Satellite Earth Observation (SEO) data and Google Earth Engine (GEE) were utilized. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was selected to quantify meteorological drought, whilst the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and Vegetation Health Index (VHI) was chosen to assess agricultural drought at both of the selected sites. The methodology undertaken firstly involved validating the SEO data against in-situ data. Thereafter, historical droughts were calculated by the SPI and SPEI indices at various timescales. Assessments were then conducted to determine the applicability of satellite based drought index VHI on quantifying agricultural drought conditions. The final assessment involved conducting propagation analysis between the drought indices. The findings of this study indicated that SEO have the potential to be utilized in the collection and monitoring of drought conditions. VHI was recognized to be scale dependent index, especially when considering averaging values. The findings of this study further suggested that the uMngeni region was more susceptible to the impacts associated with meteorological droughts characteristics whilst the Breede-Overberg region was more susceptible to the impacts associated with agricultural drought characteristics. Understanding the impacts and characteristics associated with the drought propagation process may further provide theoretical knowledge that can be used to facilitate more informed disaster, water and agricultural management and mitigation strategies to be implemented. If decision makers were to only consider drought using meteorological assessments for management decisions, the resulting strategies produced may be misleading as the impacts of an agricultural drought event may still be persistent.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.