Knowledge for Development

Mapping drought patterns and impacts: A global perspective


Date: 04/11/2009


This study examines the global patterns and impacts of droughts through the mapping of several drought-related characteristics – either at a country level or at regular grid scales. Characteristics cover various aspects of droughts – from global distribution of meteorological and hydrological drought risks to social vulnerability and indices related to water infrastructure. The maps are produced by integrating a number of publicly available global datasets. The subsequent discussion of maps allows a number of policy-relevant messages to be extracted. It appears that arid and semi-arid areas also tend to have a higher probability of drought occurrence. The report points out that in drought years, the highest per capita loss of river flow occurs in areas that do not normally experience climate-driven water scarcity. It also illustrates that the African continent is lagging behind the rest of the world on many indicators related to drought preparedness and that agricultural economies, overall, are much more vulnerable to adverse societal impacts of meteorological droughts. Regions with an unreliable and vulnerable nature of river discharge, and having the largest drought deficits and durations are highlighted, pointing to the danger of focusing on drought mitigation measures on river flows alone. The ability of various countries to satisfy their water needs during drought conditions is examined using storage-related indices.

Authors: N. Eriyagama, V. Shmaktin & N. Gamage, International Water Management Institute research report 133, 2009

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