A global drought monitoring system and dataset based on ERA5 reanalysis: A focus on crop-growing regions
Drought monitoring systems are real-time information systems focused on drought severity data. They are useful for determining the drought onset and development and defining the spatial extent of drought at any time. Effective drought monitoring requires databases with high spatial and temporal resolution and large spatial and temporal coverage. Recent reanalysis datasets meet these requirements and offer an excellent alternative to observational data. In addition, reanalysis data allow better quantification of some variables that affect drought severity and are more seldom observed. This study presents a global drought dataset and a monitoring system based on the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and ERA5 reanalysis data. Computation of the atmospheric evaporative demand for the SPEI follows the FAO-56 Penman-Monteith equation. The system is updated weekly, providing near real-time information at a 0.5° spatial resolution and global coverage. It also contains a historical dataset with the values of the SPEI at different time scales since January 1979. The drought monitoring system includes the assessment of drought severity for dominant crop-growing areas. A comparison between SPEI computed from the ERA5 and CRU datasets shows generally good spatial and temporal agreement, albeit with some important differences originating mainly from the different spatial patterns of SPEI anomalies, as well as from employing long-term climate trends for different regions worldwide. The results show that the ERA5 dataset offers robust results and supports its use for drought monitoring. The new system and dataset are publicly available at the link https://global-drought-crops.csic.es/.