It's not all about drought: What “drought impacts” monitoring can reveal

David W. Walker*, Juliana Lima Oliveira, Louise Cavalcante, Sarra Kchouk, Germano Ribeiro Neto, Lieke A. Melsen, Francisco Bergson P. Fernandes, Veronica Mitroi, Rubens S. Gondim, Eduardo Sávio Passos Rodrigues Martins, Pieter R. van Oel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Drought impacts monitoring has been called the missing piece in drought assessment. The potential to improve drought management is high but uncertain due to rare analyses of impacts datasets, predominantly because there are few impacts monitoring programmes to generate the datasets. Drought impacts monitoring is conducted on the ground in much of Brazil by local observers at monthly and municipality scale to support the Brazilian Drought Monitor. In Ceará state, within drought-prone semiarid northeast Brazil, over 3600 drought impacts reports were completed by agricultural extension officers from 2019 to 2022. We investigated, through manual coding and observer interviews, the reported drought impacts and impact drivers. Analysis provided a catalogue of the experienced impacts and showed that impacts still occur, and are often normalised, during non-drought periods, sometimes as lingering effects of previous droughts. The impact drivers were predominantly non-extreme hydrometeorological conditions or a result of socio-technical vulnerabilities such as insufficient water infrastructure. The normalisation of “impacts” included, in particular: a generally accepted high level of crop losses and consistently low reservoir levels around which the agricultural and domestic systems are adapted. Conventional drought indices often did not align with experienced impact severity, highlighting the limitations of relying solely on these indices for emergency response. Continual impacts monitoring could be extremely valuable anywhere in the world for identifying vulnerabilities and informing proactive measures to reduce drought and other hazard risk, in addition to guiding targeted mitigation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104338
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Brazil
  • Impact drivers
  • Mitigation
  • Risk reduction
  • Vulnerability


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