Food securityNew tool predicts drought

Published 21 June 2011

Knowing when to instigate water saving measures in dry times will be easier from now on, following a breakthrough in drought prediction: an Australian researcher has developed a way to predict droughts six months before they begin

Knowing when to instigate water saving measures in dry times will be easier following a breakthrough in drought prediction by a Victoria University researcher: Water engineer Dr Shishutosh Barua has developed a way to predict droughts six months before they begin.The new model was part of his Ph.D. study of Melbourne’s major water source, the Yarra River catchment.

Victoria University Australia release reports that the tool he developed measures several water and climatic variables to assess dryness in an area and then uses past circumstances to predict future drought conditions.

“The tool is capable of forecasting drought conditions six months in advance,” Dr. Barua said. “This early detection of droughts will help water managers to implement drought mitigation strategies and measures before droughts occur.”

As part of the study, Barua also used his model to accurately detect past major historical droughts in Victoria.

He said previous prediction models focused on rainfall deficiency but that his model also measured water storage, stream flow, water in the soil and evaporation to gain a broader and more accurate assessment of a catchment’s dryness.

Barua said the recent 13-year drought showed how vulnerable we were to water shortages in Australia and said he hoped his tool would allow governments and water authorities to better prepare for the next inevitable drought.

“There have been frequent droughts in the past 60 years and there will be more frequent drought in the coming years according to the climate change scenario analysis,” Barua said.

“I hope this tool can be used to forecast future drought conditions and useful for water managers to plan ahead the water management activities during droughts.’’

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