Madrid (Spain), 30 June 2023 --- The Spanish Government will make globally available a pioneering system to monitor meteorological droughts in real-time, helping other countries build up their early warning systems and adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to drought management.
The announcement is part of Spain’s contribution to the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA), a coalition of more than 30 countries and 20 international entities driving drought resilience in the face of climate change.
Teresa Ribera Rodriguez, Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, made the announcement in Madrid during the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) on Drought of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
“I applaud Spain's leadership and its drive to share technological innovations and valuable expertise with other regions that, like the Mediterranean, are particularly vulnerable to drought,” said UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Andrea Meza Murillo. “IDRA recognizes that countries and communities need to tap into their collective experience and knowledge to move towards a more resilient future. Spain’s move is a step in that direction.”
Real-time drought visualizations
The system developed by Spanish scientists monitors real-time rainfall and evapotranspiration —the combined loss of water from the soil surface and plants— through satellite data and a series of automated weather stations. The resulting visualizations are freely available online and inform the management of water resources, especially, in key industries such as agriculture. Users can also visualize meteorological drought indexes in Spain since 1961 and download datasets for specific places and times.
The tool was launched in 2021 as part of Spain’s National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change, and has since been incorporated into Google Earth Engine, a public platform for the analysis and visualization of geospatial datasets.
The contribution of Spain is in line with IDRA’s commitment to the ‘Early Warning for All’ initiative against extreme weather and climate change, launched by the United Nations Secretary-General and overseen by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO is one of the founding members of IDRA, which was launched in 2022 at the initiative of Senegal and Spain.
As part of a drive to promote knowledge-sharing, IDRA members are working to facilitate partnerships between technology providers and vulnerable regions to make drought-management innovations available to all. Members have also agreed on establishing communities of practice to foster knowledge exchange and collaboration.
Policy options for drought resilience
From 21 to 23 June 2023, Madrid hosted the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought (IWG), which previously convened in Yerevan, Armenia and Bonn, Germany. The Group is working to identify policy instruments that help countries prepare themselves for, and manage, worsening droughts. In 2024, it will present its findings and recommendations to the 16th UNCCD Conference of Parties.
No country is immune to drought and its impacts. In Europe alone, economic losses related to drought reach around 6,200 million euros annually, and the global impacts of this phenomenon are projected to become longer and more severe due to climate change and unsustainable land management.
Drought affects agriculture, but also energy, transportation, and tourism, and it directly affects the health of an estimated 55 million people around the world each year.