Precipitation is a key parameter for the study of climate change and variability and the detection and monitoring of natural disaster such as drought. Precipitation datasets that accurately capture the amount and spatial variability of rainfall is critical for drought monitoring and a wide range of other climate applications. This is challenging in many parts of the world, which often have a limited number of weather stations and/or historical data records. Satellite-derived precipitation products offer a viable alternative with several remotely sensed precipitation datasets now available with long historical data records (+30 years), which include the Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station (CHIRPS) and Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information using Artificial Neural Networks-Climate Data Record (PERSIANN-CDR) datasets. This study presents a comparative analysis of three historical satellite-based precipitation datasets that include Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) 3B43 version 7 (1998-2015), PERSIANN-CDR (1983-2015) and CHIRPS 2.0 (1981-2015) over Chile to assess their performance across the country and evaluate their applicability for agricultural drought evaluation when used in the calculation of commonly used drought indicator as the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). In this analysis, 278 weather stations of in-situ rainfall measurements across Chile were initially compared to the satellite-based precipitation estimates. The study area (Chile) was divided into five latitudinal zones: North, North-Central, Central, South-Central and South to determine if there were a regional difference among these satellite-based estimates. Nine statistics were used to evaluate the performance of satellite products to estimate the amount and spatial distribution of historical rainfall across Chile. Hierarchical cluster analysis, k-means and singular value decomposition were used to analyze these datasets to better understand their similarities and differences in characterizing rainfall patterns across Chile. Monthly analysis showed that all satellite products highly overestimated precipitation in the arid North zone. However, there were no major difference between all three products from North to South-Central zones. Though, in the South zone, PERSIANN-CDR shows the lowest fit with high underestimation, further CHIRPS 2.0 and TMPA 3B43 v7 had better agreement with in-situ measurements. The accuracy of satellite products were highly dependent on the amount of monthly rainfall with the best results found during winter seasons and in zones (Central to South) with higher amounts of precipitation. PERSIANN-CDR and CHIRPS 2.0 were used to derive SPI at time-scale of 1, 3 and 6 months, both satellite products presented similar results when it was compared in-situ against satellite SPI's. Because of its higher spatial resolution that allows better characterizing of spatial variation in precipitation pattern, the CHIRPS 2.0 was used to mapping the SPI-3 over Chile. The results of this study show that in order to use the CHIRPS 2.0 and PERSIANN-CDR data sets in Chile to monitor spatial patterns in the rainfall and drought intensity conditions, these products should be calibrated to adjust for the overestimation/underestimation of precipitation geographically specially in the North zone and seasonally during the summer and spring months in the other zones.
Drought is one of the most complex natural hazards because of its slow onset and long-term impact; it has the potential to negatively affect many people. There are several advantages to using remote sensing to monitor drought, especially in developing countries with limited historical meteorological records and a low weather station density. In the present study, we assessed agricultural drought in the croplands of the BioBio Region in Chile. The vegetation condition index (VCI) allows identifying the temporal and spatial variations of vegetation conditions associated with stress because of rainfall deficit. The VCI was derived at a 250m spatial resolution for the 2000-2015 period with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) MOD13Q1 product. We evaluated VCI for cropland areas using the land cover MCD12Q1 version 5.1 product and compared it to the in situ Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) for six-time scales (1-6 months) from 26 weather stations. Results showed that the 3-month SPI (SPI-3), calculated for the modified growing season (Nov-Apr) instead of the regular growing season (Sept-Apr), has the best Pearson correlation with VCI values with an overall correlation of 0.63 and between 0.40 and 0.78 for the administrative units. These results show a very short-term vegetation response to rainfall deficit in September, which is reflected in the vegetation in November, and also explains to a large degree the variation in vegetation stress. It is shown that for the last 16 years in the BioBio Region we could identify the 2007/2008, 2008/2009, and 2014/2015 seasons as the three most important drought events; this is reflected in both the overall regional and administrative unit analyses. These results concur with drought emergencies declared by the regional government. Future studies are needed to associate the remote sensing values observed at high resolution (250m) with the measured crop yield to identify more detailed individual crop responses.