Droughts are complex events, ranking first with regard to the number of people affected, economic loss and the size of the area affected. Early warning systems often use the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) derived from remote sensing to examine the vegetation profile throughout the growing season, looking for anomalies that could indicate drought conditions and reduced crop yields. At present, satellite-derived soil moisture information is not used as a drought indicator yet it has untapped potential for early warning purposes (Enenkel et al., 2014).


The overall objective of the SATIDA (Satellite Technologies for Improved Drought Risk Assessment) project is to improve drought monitoring and forecasting by means of a number of innovative approaches. First, point measurements of temperature and rainfall, which have been used previously in a combined drought index, will be replaced by satellite-derived and modelled datasets. Secondly, a soil moisture component will be developed based on the assimilated soil moisture product of the Hydrological Satellite Application Facility (HSAF) of EUMETSAT. Third, use will be made of carefully smoothed NDVI time series from MODIS satellites for calibration of the drought index. Fourth, a GPS-based mobile phone application will be developed for data collection and validation of the drought index on the ground. Finally, a weather forecasting component will be included. These approaches will be tested in three pilot areas in Africa and Asia, where the exact locations will be determined during the course of the project. 

The framework for SATIDA and the preliminary results were awarded with the NEPTUN Waterprize from the City of Vienna and with first prize in the FFG/BMVIT/SGAC Space App Challenge.

IIASA Research

IIASA researchers are involved in the user requirements phase, working with Doctors without Borders (MSF) to identify how a mobile-based solution can be used for data collection, decision-making and querying/validation of the combined drought index. The mobile app will use the GeoODK toolkit and will be customized for data collection by different types of MSF user in the field.

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Last edited: 06 October 2014


Linda See

Senior Research Scholar

Novel Data Ecosystems For Sustainability Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 423

Steffen Fritz

Program Director:Senior Research Scholar

Strategic Initiatives Program|Novel Data Ecosystems For Sustainability Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 353

Ian McCallum

Research Group Leader

Novel Data Ecosystems For Sustainability Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 328


01.05.2014 - 31.10.2018

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