Taking a human’s temperature is a good way to determine if their body is under stress or getting sick.
The same is true of places on Earth that are prone to drought stress in a warming climate. That’s the idea behind Drought Eye, a new tool developed by Bijan Seyednasrollah of Northern Arizona University’s Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) and School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS). By taking the temperature of a given region’s air and plant canopy, the tool offers farmers, scientists and city and land managers a faster way to measure whether that region may experience drought.
By comparing the temperature of the air and the temperature of the plant canopy, Seyednasrollah came up with a thermal stress indicator that is simple to calculate anywhere a weather station exists. He and colleagues at Duke University, where he completed his doctorate, then compared this thermal stress indicator against 15 years of data and found it “predicted” where droughts occurred with higher accuracy than traditional monitoring methods. The data, which lives on a public website Seyednasrollah and his colleagues created, can help communities better prepare for wildfires, water restrictions and other impacts of drought.