2021-12-16Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3390/w13243611
Uncertainty in Drought Identification Due to Data Choices, and the Value of Triangulation
Droughts are complex and gradually evolving conditions of extreme water deficits which can compromise livelihoods and ecological integrity, especially in fragile arid and semi-arid regions that depend on rainfed farming, such as Kitui West in south-eastern Kenya. Against the background of low ground-station density, 10 gridded rainfall products and four gridded temperature products were used to generate an ensemble of 40 calculations of the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) to assess uncertainties in the onset, duration, and magnitude of past droughts. These uncertainties were driven more by variations between the rainfall products than variations between the temperature products. Remaining ambiguities in drought occurrence could be resolved by complementing the quantitative analysis with ground-based information from key informants engaged in disaster relief, effectively formulating an ensemble approach to SPEI-based drought identification to aid decision making. The reported trend towards drier conditions in Eastern Africa was confirmed for Kitui West by the majority of data products, whereby the rainfall effect on those increasingly dry conditions was subtler than just annual and seasonal declines and greater annual variation of rainfall, which requires further investigation. Nevertheless, the effects of increasing droughts are already felt on the ground and warrant decisive action.