Multicomponent Satellite Assessment of Drought Severity in the Contiguous United States From 2002 to 2017 Using AMSR-E and AMSR2

J. Du, J. S. Kimball, I. Velicogna, M. Zhao, L. A. Jones, J. D. Watts, Y. Kim, G. A

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25 Scopus citations


The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for the Earth Observing System and Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 sensors (AMSR) have provided multifrequency microwave measurements of the global terrestrial water cycle since 2002. A new AMSR surface wetness index (ASWI) was developed by analyzing the near-surface atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD), surface volumetric soil moisture (VSM), and land surface fractional open water (FW) time series from an established AMSR Land Parameter Data Record (LPDR). The ASWI allows for multicomponent and independent satellite assessments of near-surface drought conditions by exploiting the weighted anomalies of VPD, VSM, and FW. Comparisons between ASWI and more traditional drought metrics, including the Palmer moisture anomaly index (PDSI-Z) and the U.S. Drought Monitor, showed generally consistent classifications of drought severity for three major droughts over the Contiguous United States since 2002. The AWSI showed moderate (0.3 ≤ R ≤ 0.7 for 56% of area) to strong (R > 0.7 for 29% of area) correlations with the PDSI-Z during the summer months (June–August) from 2002 to 2017. ASWI and PDSI-Z differences were attributed to AMSR retrieval uncertainties and the different aspects of drought represented by the indices. Comparisons between ASWI and the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment drought severity index (GRACE-DSI) showed strong correspondence (R = 0.61) in regions where possible long-term total water storage changes occurred. The sole reliance of the ASWI on satellite microwave remote sensing and continuing AMSR2 operations enables effective global monitoring of drought conditions while providing new information on the atmosphere, soil, and surface water components of drought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5394-5412
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2019


  • AMSR-E
  • AMSR2
  • drought
  • fractional open water
  • soil moisture
  • vapor pressure deficit


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