The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) identifies droughts as one of the major climate risks in South Asia. The report projects that climate change will pose large risks to food security by the mid-21st century, with the largest number of food-insecure people located in this region. In the context of rising variability in climatic patterns, there is an increasing need for climate information at all stages of planning for the management of agricultural and water resources.
Though vast climate information has been made available by scientific communities in the past decade, the use of this information by decision makers at the local and management levels remains low for monitoring droughts. A major hindrance in developing an operational drought monitoring and warning system in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is the lack of reliable hydro-meteorological monitoring systems and prevalent data gaps.
Under its SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) Initiative, ICIMOD has developed the Regional Drought Monitoring and Outlook System (RDMOS) as an operational service which produces reliable drought indicators for the HKH region with a specific focus on Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The system incorporates climatic models with suitable Earth observation data and land surface models to produce drought indices – precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, and evapotranspiration – and vegetation conditions at 10-day intervals for near real-time monitoring of droughts.
Seasonal-scale weather and climate variations have a significant impact on society because of their effects on the environment and more directly on water, agriculture, and food security. Seasonal outlooks provide a regional to sub-regional picture and give users a general idea of how the season will develop. They generally cover a period of three to four months, without specific quantitative measurements.
The South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) gathers regional experts to review global and regional climate conditions to produce a consistent basis for preparing national-level outlooks. Such forums allow interfacing with user sectors to understand and enhance the use of climate information manifested under the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). Along with existing national expertise, new knowledge and tools on seasonal outlook can substantially support such regional processes and evidence-based agriculture advisories in the region.
ICIMOD's RDMOS was recently augmented with a seasonal forecast mode, in which meteorological fields are downscaled from the NASA GEOS global forecast system and are used to drive land surface model simulations as far as nine months into the future. This system is implemented using the NASA Land Information System (LIS), a software framework that allows for flexible integration of diverse datasets and models. As an operational monitoring and forecast system, the RDMOS provides an improved detection of soil moisture drought, increases the reliability of hydrological drought forecast products, and, finally, produces better real-time predictions. The RDMOS generates monthly indices on current and future outlooks of drought conditions with lead times of 1–6 months at 0.05° × 0.05° resolution. This capability has been in operation since April 2019 and has provided reliable outlooks of emerging seasonal water availability scenarios for the region.
A web-based graphical user interface provides a user-friendly means to analyse drought indices across river basins, national administrative boundaries, or a pre-defined area of interest and to aggregate results along cropping seasons.
- Orientation to the RDMOS
- Review of the May–August 2020 seasonal outlook on the basis of initial conditions in March 2020
- Review of operational needs and critical times for the agriculture sector
- Professionals from national hydrometeorology agencies involved in drought, agriculture, and seasonal outlook work
- Professionals from the department of agriculture/ministry of agriculture and/or department of environment/ministry of Environment and National Agricultural Research System (NARS) who are involved in agro-climatic assessment and agriculture advisory and extension activities
- Professionals from regional and international agencies working in the area of agriculture and food security