Online Drought Indicators and Indices

Evaporative Stress Index (ESI)


Index name: Evaporative Stress Index (ESI).

Ease of use: Green.

Origins: Developed by a team led by Anderson, in which remotely sensed data were used to compute evapotranspiration over the United States. The team was composed of scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture, the University of Alabama-Huntsville and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Characteristics: Established as a new drought index in which evapotranspiration is compared to potential evapotranspiration using geostationary satellites. Analyses suggest that it performs similarly to short-term precipitation-based indices, but can be produced at a much higher resolution and without the need for precipitation data.

Input parameters: Remotely sensed potential evapotranspiration.

Applications: Especially useful for identifying and monitoring droughts that have multiple impacts.

Strengths: Very high resolution with a spatial coverage of any area.

Weaknesses: Cloud cover can contaminate and affect results. There is not a long period of record for climatological studies.

Resources: Calculations of the index are provided in the literature and on the Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory (HRSL) of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) website.

Reference: Anderson, M.C., C. Hain, B. Wardlow, A. Pimstein, J.R. Mecikalski and W.P. Kustas, 2011: Evaluation of drought indices based on thermal remote sensing of evapotranspiration over the continental United States. Journal of Climate, 24(8): 2025–2044. DOI: 10.1175/2010JCLI3812.1.

  1. Simachew
    December 29, 2017 Reply

    would you please sen me other related drought indices used in the analysis of drought?

    1. Robert Stefanski
      January 8, 2018 Reply

      Dear Simachew,

      There are many other drought indices within the same website at and a PDF in 6 official UN languages at

      Best regards,


  2. Teweled
    June 18, 2017 Reply

    send me the setup for teaching undergradaute students

    1. Robert Stefanski
      July 13, 2017 Reply

      Please be more specific in your request. Do you mean teaching the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI)??


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