Drought is generally considered an extended period (season, year or several years) of decient precipitation compared to the long-term average for an area that results in water shortage for some activity, group or environmental sector (National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), 2008). It is thus important to monitor precipitation levels in order to ensure a proactive response and effective early warning.
Following reports that rainfall levels in the Middle East were lower than normal, precipitation levels from February 2016 were analysed and compared to levels at the same time the previous year and the long-term average (average precipitation levels over the last 15 years). The maps below show these results, with red indicating below normal precipitation (getting darker as the levels decrease) while higher than normal levels are shown in blue (getting darker as the levels increase).
The results of the analysis indicate that rainfall in February 2016 was markedly lower than the previous year and below the 15 year average for the month of February. If the situation continues it could result in negative impacts on the current agricultural season.
At present, Lebanon and Syria are the most affected, with Northern Syria particularly below average. Meanwhile, rainfall over most of central Iraq is slightly above the previous year as well as above the 15 year average.
This situation will continue to be monitored over the coming weeks and months.