Finescale Evaluation of Drought in a Tropical Setting: Case Study in Sri Lanka

Lyon, Bradfield; Zubair, Lareef M.; Ralapanawe, Vidhura; Yahiya, Zeenas

In regions of climatic heterogeneity, finescale assessment of drought risk is needed for policy making and drought management, mitigation, and adaptation. The relationship between drought relief payments (a proxy for drought risk) and meteorological drought indicators is examined through a retrospective analysis for Sri Lanka (1960–2000) based on records of district-level drought relief payments and a dense network of 284 rainfall stations. The standardized precipitation index and a percent-of-annual-average index for rainfall accumulated over 3, 6, 9, and 12 months were used, gridded to a spatial resolution of 10 km. An encouraging correspondence was identified between the spatial distribution of meteorological drought occurrence and historical drought relief payments at the district scale. Time series of drought indices averaged roughly over the four main climatic zones of Sri Lanka showed statistically significant (p < 0.01) relationships with the occurrence of drought relief. The 9-month cumulative drought index provided the strongest relationships overall, although 6- and 12-month indicators provided generally similar results. Some cases of appreciable drought without corresponding relief payments could be attributed to fiscal pressures, as during the 1970s. Statistically significant relationships between drought indicators and relief payments point to the potential utility of meteorological drought assessments for disaster risk management. In addition, the study provides an empirical approach to testing which meteorological drought indicators bear a statistically significant relationship to drought relief across a wide range of tropical climates.

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Also Published In

Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology

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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
September 13, 2011