J1.4 Drought as a focal point for climate services

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 4:15 PM
Salon C (Asheville Renaissance)
Mark D. Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center, Lincoln, NE; and M. J. Hayes

Perhaps no other hazard lends itself as well to helping stand up a national climate service than drought. Unlike most hazards, the fact that droughts typically evolve slowly, last for months or years and cover thousands of square miles across multiple political boundaries and economic sectors can make it a daunting task to monitor, mitigate and plan for. Many forces are working together via the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) (drought.gov), the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) (drought.unl.edu), tribes, states, state and federal agencies, regional and state climate offices, river basin authorities and various communities across the United States in the formation of a collaboration and coordination nexus with an ultimate goal of building a comprehensive national drought early warning system (DEWS).

The NDMC works to reduce societal vulnerability to drought by helping decision makers at all levels to: implement drought early warning systems, understand and prevent drought impacts and increase long-term resilience to drought through proactive planning. The NDMC is a national center founded in 1995 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The NDMC conducts basic and applied research along with the maintaining of a number of operational drought-related activities, including the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) and the Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI).

The U.S. Drought Impact Reporter has been online since 2005 and has logged and archived more than 12,000 impacts to date. In November 2008, based on our experience and users' suggestions, we implemented a new database that lets us incorporate more information, such as reports from CoCoRaHS observers, from Arizona Drought Watch (http://azdroughtwatch.org/), and from other states' efforts.

The idea of building a new on-line GIS-based Drought Atlas interface was based on updating and expanding on the original ideas of the National Electronic Drought Atlas (NEDA) developed in the early 1990s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and IBM. The original NEDA contained those stations found at the time within the Historical Climate Network (HCN), numbering approximately 1,000. The period of record at the time was limited, as many stations only had records from the late 1940s to present, and these data points were put into their respective climate divisions. A monthly time step was used to calculate the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). In the new web-based National Drought Atlas, the idea was to expand the data to include all of the most complete long-term stations from a variety of sources, using a weekly time-step to calculate multiple drought indices at each point from which multiple derivative analyses and products are made available to the user along with the data. The SPI, PDSI, sc-PDSI, Deciles and other climatology is included in the new drought atlas and the total number of stations was nearly tripled to 3,000 with a doubling of the period of record as well for most sites.

The Drought-Ready Communities pilot project culminated in summer 2010 with a Guide to Community Drought Preparedness (http://www.drought.unl.edu/plan/DRC_Guide.pdf) that communities, counties, basin or other local entities throughout the United States can use to understand and reduce their drought risk. The process outlined in the Guide is broad-based, recognizing that drought creates problems that go beyond the scope of what water suppliers alone can address. Worksheets and other exercises can help communities see how drought has affected water supplies and overall community well-being in the past. The Guide can also help communities identify their drought monitoring resources, so they can spot emerging drought. A planning section helps communities determine steps they can take to reduce their drought risk ahead of time. It also recommends planning responses to drought before the next one happens. The Guide includes case studies and an extensive resource collection on how other municipalities have planned for drought, including both processes and solution.

This paper will describe in more detail the various drought resources, tools, services and collaborations already being provided by the NDMC and its partners along with a look at what is in the pipeline for the future in helping others toward developing drought early warning systems in the U.S. and around the world.

Drought Early Warning Resources:

National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Portal http://drought.gov

U.S. Drought Monitor http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

North American Drought Monitor http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/drought/nadm/

U.S. Drought Impact Reporter http://droughtreporter.unl.edu/

Vegetation Drought Response Index http://drought.unl.edu/vegdri/VegDRI_Main.htm

Drought Planning Resources:

Drought Planning: Getting Started http://drought.unl.edu/plan/plan.htm

Drought Ready Communities http://drought.unl.edu/plan/DRC.htm

How to Reduce Drought Risk http://drought.unl.edu/plan/handbook/risk.pdf

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