Linking Drought Impacts Information to Decision Making: Identifying Gaps and a Framework for Moving Forward

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Thursday, 6 February 2014: 11:30 AM
Room C107 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Kirstin Dow, Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments, Columbia, SC; and A. Brennan, K. Lackstrom, and D. Ferguson

While the importance of identifying, reporting, and assessing drought impacts is recognized as a component of a comprehensive Drought Early Warning System (DEWS), drought impact information collection strategies and assessments often are not well integrated into drought monitoring and management strategies. Across the US, several organizations are involved in efforts related to drought impacts reporting, but these activities are often not connected, which limits opportunities for leveraging knowledge and resources.

Based on a shared interest to better understand the impacts of drought and the potential utility of using drought impacts reporting as a tool for monitoring conditions, researchers from the Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments, the Climate Assessment for the Southwest, and the Southwest Climate Science Center convened a workshop in Tucson, AZ, in March 2013. The primary goal was to assemble a small group of university and agency scientists involved with drought impacts monitoring to discuss their knowledge and experiences with respect to opportunities and barriers associated with drought impacts reporting, begin to identify best practices for implementing a drought impacts reporting system, and to develop a path forward for addressing or overcoming barriers.

This paper reports on key themes discussed at the workshop regarding the linking of impacts information to decision making and suggests a framework for advancing drought impacts reporting and monitoring efforts.

The existing system of drought impact reporting and monitoring, which includes the Drought Impact Reporter at the national level and an ad hoc system of tools and processes at the state and local level, is fragmented and appears to be limited in its use by decision makers. At the Tucson workshop participants identified several key components of a comprehensive drought impact reporting and monitoring systems as a first step in thinking about how to integrate information into decision making across multiple sectors and levels. A comprehensive system would need to include:

1) Data providers, or impact observers and reporters, representing a range of sectors and multiple scales (local to national).

2) Mechanisms or tools through which impacts data are collected and potentially aggregated from lower to high scales. Existing reporting systems (e.g. the DIR) may be useful here or be able to serve as models for new tools.

3) Mechanisms or processes through which drought impacts data are communicated and made useful for users. Translators who are able to synthesize data and communicate effectively with data providers and information users are an important part of this process.

4) Information users (i.e. drought managers and decision makers) and tools to guide the use of impacts information (e.g. drought response plans).

5) Mechanisms or processes to assess the practical use of impacts information in decision making and provide feedback to translators and data providers to improve monitoring and reporting.

Developing a sustainable drought impacts reporting and monitoring system will involve addressing diverse stakeholder needs and connecting impacts to policy and management decisions. Evaluating existing impact data collection and reporting systems and pursuing opportunities to coordinate efforts are essential first steps to support the integration of drought impacts information into practice.