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Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (6): 984-1000    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0096-4
Research article     
Assessment of drought hazard, vulnerability and risk in Iran using GIS techniques
1Department of Arid and Mountainous Regions Reclamation, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Tehran 31587-77871, Iran
2Department of Organic & Polymer Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Kharazmi University, Tehran 15719-14911, Iran
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The drought has enormous adverse effects on agriculture, water resources and environment, and causes damages around the world. Drought risk assessment and prioritization of drought management can help decision makers and planners to manage the adverse effects of drought. This paper aims to determine the risk of drought in Iran. At the first stage, standardized precipitation index (SPI) was calculated for the period 1981-2016. Then the probability map of different drought classes or drought hazard probability map were prepared. After that the indicator-based vulnerability assessment method was used to determine the drought vulnerability index. Five indices including climate, topography, waterway density, land use and groundwater resources were chosen as the most critical factors of drought in Iran and followed by the analytical hierarchy process questionnaire, the weights of each index were obtained based on expert opinions. Fuzzy membership maps of each index and sub-index were prepared using ArcGIS software. The drought vulnerability map of Iran was plotted using these weights and maps of each indicator. Finally, the drought risk map of Iran was provided by multiplying drought hazard and vulnerability maps. According to the 43-completed questionnaires by experts, climate index has the highest vulnerability to drought. Climate does not have an important role in drought hazard index, but it is the most crucial factor to classified drought vulnerability index. The results showed that central, northeast, southeast and west parts of Iran are at high risks of drought. There are regions with different risks in Iran due to unusual weather and climatic conditions. We realized that the climate and the groundwater situation is almost the same in the central, east and south parts of Iran, because the land use plays a crucial role in the drought vulnerability and risk in these areas. The drought risk decreases from the center of Iran to the southwest and northwest.

Key wordsclimate map      standardized precipitation index      analytical hierarchy process      fuzzy membership      weight     
Received: 18 July 2019      Published: 10 November 2020
Corresponding Authors: KHOSRAVI Hassan     E-mail:
About author: *Hassan KHOSRAVI (E-mail:
Cite this article:

Esmail HEYDARI ALAMDARLOO, Hassan KHOSRAVI, Sahar NASABPOUR, Ahmad GHOLAMI. Assessment of drought hazard, vulnerability and risk in Iran using GIS techniques. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(6): 984-1000.

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Fig. 1 Location of the study region, distribution of synoptic stations and climatic diversity in Iran
Drought category SPI value
Too severe drought ≤ -2.00
Severe drought -1.99<SPI< -1.50
Medium drought -1.49<SPI< -1.00
Normal -0.99<SPI<0.99
Medium wet 1.00<SPI<1.49
Severe wet 1.50<SPI<2.00
Too severe wet ≥2.00
Table 1 SPI (standardized precipitation index) classification (Mckee et al., 1993)
Drought class Weight Rating Occurrence probability* (%) Area (%)
Moderate drought 1 1 ≤6.96 20.02
2 6.96-8.69 42.23
3 8.69-10.56 28.89
4 ≥10.56 8.86
Severe drought 2 1 ≤3.76 32.21
2 3.76-5.05 39.92
3 5.05-6.84 14.89
4 ≥6.84 12.98
Very severe drought 3 1 ≤1.59 12.47
2 1.59-2.34 35.43
3 2.34-3.03 43.18
4 ≥3.03 8.92
Table 2 Weight and rating assigned to the drought in a time step of 12 months
Fig. 2 Analytic hierarchy process (AHP) for drought vulnerability determination
Fig. 3 Drought probability map for 12 months: moderate (a); severe (b); and very severe (c)
Fig. 4 Drought hazard index for time step of 12 months
Index Weight Sub-index Weight
Climate 0.516 Precipitation 0.693
Evaporation 0.088
Temperature 0.219
Waterway density 0.040 - -
Topography 0.061 Slope 0.490
Aspect 0.197
Height 0.313
Land use 0.164 - -
Groundwater resources 0.219 Depletion 0.875
Depth 0.125
Table 3 Index and sub-index weights determined by the analytic hierarchy process
Fig. 5 Fuzzy membership map of waterway density index
Fig. 6 Fuzzy membership map of land use index
Fig. 7 Fuzzy membership map of groundwater index (a) and its sub-indices: groundwater depletion (b) and groundwater depth (c)
Fig. 8 Fuzzy membership map of topography index (a) and its sub-indices: aspect (b), height (c), and slope (d)
Fig. 9 Fuzzy membership map of climate index (a) and its sub-indices: precipitation (b), temperature (c) and evaporation (d)
Fig. 10 Drought vulnerability map of Iran
Fig. 11 Drought risk map of Iran
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