92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012: 11:00 AM
The Enigma of Drought: Challenges of Definition, Early Warning, Preparedness, and Policy [INVITED]
Room 352 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Don Wilhite, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE

Drought is a normal part of climate for virtually all of the world's climatic regimes. To better address the risks associated with this hazard and society's vulnerability to it, there must be a dramatic paradigm shift in our approach to drought management in the coming decade. Addressing this challenge will require an improved awareness of drought as a natural hazard, the establishment of integrated drought monitoring and early warning systems, a higher level of preparedness that fully incorporates risk-based management, and the adoption of national drought policies that are directed at increasing coping capacity and resilience to future drought episodes.

The United States has made some important strides forward in recent years through the creation of the National Drought Mitigation Center, the adoption of the U.S. Drought Monitor as a key science-based monitoring tool, the implementation of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), the significant progress in state-level drought planning, and the improvement of climate services at the local, regional, and national levels. However, the recommendations of the National Drought Policy Commission in 2000 have been largely ignored by Congress and federal agencies. The 2011 drought and its associated wide-ranging impacts on many economic sectors in the southern U.S. have once again illustrated the vulnerability of this region and the low level of preparedness to severe drought conditions. Given increased pressures on water resources in the United States and projections of increased frequency, severity, and duration of future drought episodes, the time to change the paradigm for drought management has come.

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