Coping with Drought (CWD) in Support of NIDIS Initiative: Preliminary Findings from NOAA-Supported Research

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010: 4:00 PM
B213 (GWCC)
Nancy Kay Beller-Simms, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD

The NOAA Climate Program Office's Coping with Drought in Support of NIDIS Initiative began in 2007 as a joint Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA), Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP), and Transition of Research Applications to Climate Services (TRACS) effort to develop a focused decision-support research and service delivery effort to aid risk management in the context of severe, sustained drought and broader water resources management issues.

The initiative had several impetuses including a long-term commitment by the NOAA Climate Office in supporting research focused on the use of climate prediction information in decision-making across a range of sectors (e.g., agriculture, water management, public health, fisheries, forest fire management, etc.). This research has included stakeholders at the local, state, regional and federal levels (e.g., farmers, ranchers, Governors' offices, water management agencies, ditch companies, forest fire managers, and other stakeholders) to (a) ascertain the type of climate information that would be most useful in their decision making, (b) determine how scientific information could help to reduce vulnerability to drought, specifically in light of other extreme events and long-term climate trends (e.g., declining snowpacks in the western U.S.) and other socioeconomic influences (e.g., increasing population in historically water supply problem areas) and (c) develop information, models or tools of use to these decision makers.

Another reason for this initiative began when Congress established the National Drought Policy Commission under the National Drought Policy Act of 1998 to ensure collaboration between different government agencies on drought-related issues. In 2000, the Commission issued a pioneering report, “Preparing for Drought in the 21st Century”. Following the Commission's recommendations, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) requested that NOAA take the lead on the implementation of the vision for a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which calls explicitly for research on the impacts of drought. The NIDIS Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress and signed by the President in 2006, and NIDIS was officially established.

Under the CWD Initiative, projects sponsored by RISA, SARP and TRACS include integrated, problem-focused research and the transition of research-to-operations. These projects address the effects of drought on society and economically productive sectors of the US economy and the expressed needs of regional decision makers as they confront the challenges of drought planning, mitigation and efforts to incorporate climate variability over years to decades into their planning processes.

The Initiative focused on funding projects within the following three areas: (1) support cross-RISA team drought projects to build upon and highlight the experience gained throughout the RISA network of researcher-practitioner collaborations; specifically exploring issues of testing drought-focused tools across different regions and/or working across RISA teams on drought issues within a river basin or specified geographic area; (2) identify via a sector-based impacts research effort the economic and social effects of drought (across the US) through methods compatible with the short and long-term data and information needs of policy and decision makers; and (3) meet user requirements for the development of end-stage climate information tailored for specific decision needs associated with operational activities. It is expected that research from these projects will provide resources to respond to the challenges of such practical issues as the re-licensing of dams, reservoir management challenges, ecosystem restoration initiatives, and a host of other complex and competing water-resource allocation issues. Research findings are also expected to result in more widespread use of climate information and will be critical to building an end-to-end climate service.

The first of the CWD-funded projects are completing their work and reporting on their results. The presentations included in this AMS session highlight projects funded by all three programs in the first few years of this initiative. These particular presentations were chosen from among over 25 projects already funded to date because they demonstrate the connectivity among the three NOAA programs in addressing “Coping with Drought.” Each of the presenters represents an institution, which has received funding from two or more of the NOAA-member program funders of this initiative.