Drought is one of the most complex natural hazards because of its slow onset and long-term impact; it has the potential to negatively affect many people. There are several advantages to using remote sensing to monitor drought, especially in developing countries with limited historical meteorological records and a low weather station density. In the present study, we assessed agricultural drought in the croplands of the BioBío Region in Chile. The vegetation condition index (VCI) allows identifying the temporal and spatial variations of vegetation conditions associated with stress because of rainfall deficit. The VCI was derived at a 250 m spatial resolution for the 2000–2015 period with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) MOD13Q1 product. We evaluated VCI for cropland areas using the land cover MCD12Q1 version 5.1 product and compared it to the in situ Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) for six-time scales (1–6 months) from 26 weather stations. Results showed that the 3-month SPI (SPI-3), calculated for the modified growing season (November–April) instead of the regular growing season (September–April), has the best Pearson correlation with VCI values with an overall correlation of 0.63 and between 0.40 and 0.78 for the administrative units. These results show a very short-term vegetation response to rainfall deficit in September, which is reflected in the vegetation in November, and also explains to a large degree the variation in vegetation stress. It is shown that for the last 16 years in the BioBío Region we could identify the 2007/2008, 2008/2009, and 2014/2015 seasons as the three most important drought events; this is reflected in both the overall regional and administrative unit analyses. These results concur with drought emergencies declared by the regional government. Future studies are needed to associate the remote sensing values observed at high resolution (250 m) with the measured crop yield to identify more detailed individual crop responses.
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