Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Using NDVI to measure precipitation in semi-arid landscapes

April 20, 2016

Measuring precipitation in semi-arid landscapes is important for understanding the processes related to rainfall and run-off; however, measuring precipitation accurately can often be challenging especially within remote regions where precipitation instruments are scarce. Typically, rain-gauges are sparsely distributed and research comparing rain-gauge and RADAR precipitation estimates reveal that RADAR data are often misleading, especially for monsoon season convective storms. This study investigates an alternative way to map the spatial and temporal variation of precipitation inputs along ephemeral stream channels using Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery. NDVI values from 26 years of pre- and post-monsoon season Landsat imagery were derived across Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), a region covering 3,367 km2 of semiarid landscapes in southwestern Arizona, USA. The change in NDVI from a pre-to post-monsoon season image along ephemeral stream channels explained 73% of the variance in annual monsoonal precipitation totals from a nearby rain-gauge. In addition, large seasonal changes in NDVI along channels were useful in determining when and where flow events have occurred.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Using NDVI to measure precipitation in semi-arid landscapes
DOI 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.04.004
Authors Amy N. Birtwhistle, Melinda Laituri, Brian Bledsoe, Jonathan M. Friedman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Arid Environments
Index ID 70175897
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center

Related Content