International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 62, Issue 5, pp 809–822 | Cite as

Assessment of MODIS-derived indices (2001–2013) to drought across Taiwan’s forests

  • Chung-Te Chang
  • Hsueh-Ching Wang
  • Cho-ying Huang
Original Paper


Tropical and subtropical ecosystems, the largest terrestrial carbon pools, are very susceptible to the variability of seasonal precipitation. However, the assessment of drought conditions in these regions is often overlooked due to the preconceived notion of the presence of high humidity. Drought indices derived from remotely sensed imagery have been commonly used for large-scale monitoring, but feasibility of drought assessment may vary across regions due to climate regimes and local biophysical conditions. Therefore, this study aims to evaluate the feasibility of 11 commonly used MODIS-derived vegetation/drought index in the forest regions of Taiwan through comparison with the station-based standardized precipitation index with a 3-month time scale (SPI3). The drought indices were further transformed (standardized anomaly, SA) to make them better delineate the spatiotemporal variations of drought conditions. The results showed that the Normalized Difference Infrared Index utilizing the near-infrared and shortwave infrared bands (NDII6) may be more superior to other indices in delineating drought patterns. Overall, the NDII6 SA-SPI3 pair yielded the highest correlation (mean r ± standard deviation = 0.31 ± 0.13) and was most significant in central and south Taiwan (r = 0.50–0.90) during the cold, dry season (January and April). This study illustrated that the NDII6 is suitable to delineate drought conditions in a relatively humid region. The results suggested the better performance of the NDII6 SA-SPI3 across the high climate gradient, especially in the regions with dramatic interannual amplifications of rainfall. This synthesis was conducted across a wide bioclimatic gradient, and the findings could be further generalized to a much broader geographical extent.


Drought Leaf water content Normalized Difference Infrared Index (NDII) Seasonal precipitation Spring rainfall Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) 



We thank Dr. Tim R. McVicar for his valuable input in improving this manuscript.

Funding information

This study was sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan (Grant Numbers MOST 103-2811-M-002-231, 103-2119-M-002-016-, 104-2116-M-002-012, 104-2811-M-002-064, 105-2410-H-002-218-MY3, 105-2811-H-002-024, and 106-2811-H-002-027) and National Taiwan University (106R104516).

Supplementary material

484_2017_1482_MOESM1_ESM.docx (258 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 258 kb)


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Copyright information

© ISB 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chung-Te Chang
    • 1
  • Hsueh-Ching Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cho-ying Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Disaster ManagementCentral Police UniversityTaoyuanTaiwan

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