On agricultural drought monitoring in Australia using Himawari-8 geostationary thermal infrared observations

Tian Hu*, Albert I.J.M. van Dijk, Luigi J. Renzullo, Zhihong Xu, Jie He, Siyuan Tian, Jun Zhou, Hua Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Monitoring agricultural drought effectively and timely is important to support drought management and food security. Effective drought monitoring requires a suite of drought indices to capture the evolution process of drought. Thermal infrared signals respond rapidly to vegetation water stress, thus being regarded useful for drought monitoring at the early stage. Several temperature-based drought indices have been developed considering the role of land surface temperature (LST) in surface energy and water balance. Here, we compared the recently proposed Temperature Rise Index (TRI) with several agricultural drought indices that also use thermal infrared observations, including Temperature Condition Index (TCI), Vegetation Health Index (VHI) and satellite-derived evapotranspiration ratio anomaly (ΔfRET) for a better understanding of these thermal infrared drought indices. To do so, we developed a new method for calculating TRI directly from the top-of-atmosphere brightness temperatures in the two split-window channels (centered around ∼11 and 12 μm) rather than from LST. TRI calculated using the Himawari-8 brightness temperatures (TRI_BT) and LST retrievals (TRI_LST), along with the other LST-based indices, were calculated for the growing season (July–October) of 2015−2019 over the Australian wheatbelt. An evaluation was conducted by spatiotemporally comparing the indices with the drought indices used by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in the official drought reports: the Precipitation Condition Index (PCI) and the Soil Moisture Condition Index (SMCI). All the LST-based drought indices captured the wet conditions in 2016 and dry conditions in 2019 clearly. Ranking of Pearson correlations of the LST-based indices with regards to PCI and SMCI produced very similar results. TRI_BT and TRI_LST showed the best agreement with PCI and SMCI (r > 0.4). TCI and VHI presented lower consistency with PCI and SMCI compared with TRI_BT and TRI_LST. ΔfRET had weaker correlations than the other LST-based indices in this case study, possibly because of outliers affecting the scaling procedure. The capability of drought early warning for TRI was demonstrated by comparing with the monthly time series of the greenness index Vegetation Condition Index (VCI) in a case study of 2018 considering the relatively slow response of the greenness index to drought. TRI_BT and TRI_LST had a lead of one month in showing the changing dryness conditions compared with VCI. In addition, the LST-based indices were correlated with annual wheat yield. Compared to wheat yields, all LST-based indices had a peak correlation in September. TRI_BT and TRI_LST had strong peak and average correlations with wheat yield (r ≥ 0.8). We conclude that TRI has promise for agricultural drought early warning, and TRI_BT appears to be a good candidate for efficient operational drought early warning given the readily accessible inputs and simple calculation approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102153
JournalInternational Journal of applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Agricultural drought
  • Himawari-8
  • Thermal infrared
  • TRI


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