Analysis of NVDI variability in response to precipitation and air temperature in different regions of Iraq, using MODIS vegetation indices

Afrah Daham*, Dawei Han, Miguel Rico-Ramirez, Anke Marsh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
311 Downloads (Pure)


Iraq, the land of two rivers, has a history that extends back millennia and is the subject of much archaeological research. However, little environmental research has been carried out, and as such relatively little is known about the interaction between Iraq’s vegetation and climate. This research serves to fill this knowledge gap by investigating the relationship between the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and two climatic factors (precipitation and air temperature) over the last decade. The precipitation and air temperature datasets are from the Water and Global Change Forcing Data ERA-Interim (WFDEI), and the NDVI dataset was extracted from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) at 250 m spatial resolution and 16 day temporal resolution. Three different climatic regions in Iraq, Sulaymaniyah, Wasit, and Basrah, were selected for the period of 2001–2015. This is the first study to compare these regions in Iraq, and one of only a few investigating vegetation’s relationship with multiple climatic factors, including precipitation and air temperature, particularly in a semi-arid region. The interannual, intra-annual and seasonal variability for each region is analysed to compare the different responses of vegetation growth to climatic factors. Correlations between NDVI and climatic factors are also included. Plotting annual cycles of NDVI and precipitation reveals a coherent onset, fluctuation (peak and decline), with a time lag of 4 months for Sulaymaniyah and Wasit (while for the Basrah region, high temperatures and a short rainy season was observed). The correlation coefficients between NDVI and precipitation are relatively high, especially in Sulaymaniyah, and the largest positive correlation was (0.8635) with a time lag of 4 months. The phenological transition points range between 3 and 4 month time lag; this corresponds to the duration of maturity of the vegetation. However, when correlated with air temperature, NDVI experiences an inverse relationship, although not as strong as that of NDVI and precipitation; the highest negative correlation was observed in Wasit with a time lag of 2 months (− 0.7562). The results showed that there is a similarity between temporal patterns of NDVI and precipitation. This similarity is stronger than that of NDVI and air temperature, so it can be concluded that NDVI is a sensitive indicator of the inter-annual variability of precipitation and that precipitation constitutes the primary factor in germination while the air temperature acts with a lesser effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number389
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number10
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Structured keywords

  • Water and Environmental Engineering


  • WATCH Forcing Data ERA-Interim (WFDEI)
  • NDVI
  • Precipitation
  • Air temperature
  • Vegetation
  • Inter-annual
  • Intra-annual
  • Seasonal variability
  • Rainfall indicators
  • Air temperature indicators


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