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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Contribution to drought identification and alert in Northern Tunisia

PI: Zoubeida Kebaili Bargaoui (Ecole Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Tunis)
U.S. Partner: Kelly Caylor (Princeton University)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2015

Tunisia is a primarily agricultural country with sub-humid, sub-arid, and arid climate zones. As a result, the country's economy is very sensitive to the impact of droughts, so research on drought alert systems to facilitate drought monitoring, mitigation, and adaptation programs could be very useful. The project aims to contribute to drought identification and alert in Tunisia using water budget modeling, which incorporates satellite information. It will leverage the experimental African Drought Monitor (ADM) system developed by Princeton University researchers in collaboration with UNESCO and installed in Niamey and Nairobi. North Africa is not currently well covered by ADM, so this PEER Science project intends to enhance drought monitoring in the region by using local observations that are currently unavailable to ADM. Actual prediction of the water balance terms is one point of departure in ADM. The Princeton researchers are using a variable infiltration capacity (VIC) land surface model as the computational basis for the water balance representation in ADM and for land surface temperature modeling. Climate and soil data including from remote sensing sources are used as model inputs to compute soil moisture content and resulting water stress indicators.

The Tunisian research team, on the other hand, has developed a water balance model in recent years using ground-based local precipitation, air temperature, and soil data for runoff and evapotranspiration prediction. In the first phase of the project, the Tunisian model will be compared with ADM/VIC results to reconstitute a historic period of observation using runoff data (1960- 2010). The next element of the project is to assess the quality of satellite estimates and reanalysis data (rainfall in particular) that feed the VIC model by comparing them with ground estimations (historic reconstitution). In addition, the ENIT team has developed an application using ground observations and water balance modeling to assess drought indices, some of which have already been implemented in ADM. However, the drought index based on soil moisture percentiles adopted by ADM is not included in the Tunisian applications so far. An assessment of the drought indices and evaluation of their quality and ability to identify well-known past drought periods will also be carried out as part of the PEER project. Data will be shared through a web-based interface that will be developed as part of the existing ADM web interface in order to display the results of the North Tunisia Drought Monitor. Users will be able to access maps of model outputs (mainly precipitation, evapotranspiration, surface runoff, and soil moisture) and to spatially averaged drought indicators. Overall, the project should help to facilitate drought mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Summary of Recent Activities
 
In October 2013, Dr. Bargaoui was invited to two conferences at the Agricultural-Hydrological-Meteorological (AGRHYMET) Center in Niamey, Niger. At the first conference, the Princeton Global Collaborative Research Network Workshop on Climate Change, Water and Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Bargaoui gave a presentation entitled “Perspectives/challenges on current and future water and food security issues in Africa—a Tunisian perspective.” At the subsequent World Water Day 2013 conference organized by UNESCO-PHI, Dr. Bargaoui spoke on drought management in Tunisia. The conferences provided an excellent forum for discussions between the PEER research team and AGRHYMET personnel. Meanwhile, Dr. Bargaoui has helped the Princeton research group to post an Arabic version of the African Flood and Drought Monitor website: <http://stream.princeton.edu/AWCM/WEBPAGE/index.php>. Databases needed to run the drought monitor were prepared, and the hydrological services branch of the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture has agreed to provide watershed characteristics, rainfall network, and satellite data.
 
In the future, plans are under way for exchange visits between Tunis and Princeton. Three Tunisian project participants are scheduled to visit Princeton University from March 5-14, 2014. A team from Princeton will also be visiting Tunis El Manar University in June or July 2014. It is expected that U.S. partner Kelly Caylor and one other person will travel to Tunisia to install sensors in the field, run quality checks on the computer system, and supervise the first model runs.

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