The U.S. National Integrated Drought Information System: An update and an Outlook

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 4:30 PM
Georgia Ballroom 2 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Roger S. Pulwarty, NOAA, Boulder, CO

The National Integrated Drought Information System Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-430, hereafter NIDIS Act) builds on longstanding efforts among agencies and institutions that have historically focused on drought risk assessment and response. The NIDIS Act prescribes an interagency approach, led by NOAA, to “Enable the Nation to move from a reactive to a more proactive approach to managing drought risks and impacts.”

This paper will review the successes, opportunities and barriers to the implementation of NIDIS to date, particularly in response to the droughts of 2012, 2013 and ongoing conditions. It will also review the impacts of NIDIS on the national and international efforts including the state and tribal drought risk reduction efforts, Presidents Climate Action Plan, the UN High Level Ministerial Declaration on National Drought Policy, and the increasing awareness of NIDIS as a model for developing and delivering scientifically-based information services. The goals of NIDIS are to (a) improve public awareness of drought and attendant impacts and (b) improve the coordination and capacity of counties, states and watershed to reduce drought risks proactively.

Under the Act, NIDIS is authorized to conduct three tasks to achieve these goals: i. Provide an effective drought early warning system that: (a) collects and integrates key indicators of drought severity and impacts, and (b) produces timely information that reflects local, regional, and state differences, ii. Coordinate and integrate as practicable, Federal research in support of a drought early warning system, and, iii. Build upon existing forecasting and assessment programs and partnerships.

NIDIS was developed, and is continually being improved by engaging those affected by drought, integration of physical/hydrological and impacts information from observing networks, development of a suite of drought decision support tools, and the interactive delivery of information at watershed, state and county levels across the United States. Partnerships are composed of representatives from federal, state and Native American tribal agencies, and academic and private entities. To meet these goals, NIDIS supports four elements at the national level, all of which work together. The Drought Early Warning and Information Systems (DEWS) integrate information from “Coping with Drought” Research, the Climate Test-bed, and the Drought Portal, and fills in information gaps to provide drought early warning to drought-vulnerable regions of the Nation. Below is a brief description of each element, which I will explain in more detail below: ● “Coping with Drought” Research: Provides grants to assess impacts of drought on agriculture, ecosystems, and water resources and to develop decision support tools for regional, state, and local use. Partners include the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program and the Sectoral Applications and Research Program. ● Climate Test-beds: Research to improve predictions and links between climate forecasts and stream flow projections for particular basins. In addition, the Earth System Research Laboratory's Physical Sciences Division, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and the Interagency Drought Task Force, all support NIDIS through research on drivers of drought frequency, onset, duration, and intensity. ● The U.S. Drought Portal: An interactive portal (www.drought.gov) for drought-related information and products provides credible and easily-accessible information to the public and private sectors on the web. ● Regional Drought Early Warning Information Systems (DEWS): The system facilitates ongoing assessment and scientifically-based outlooks of existing and potential drought conditions and impacts. These results are disseminated through webinars and workshops to resource managers. The system also develops user guidance, webinars, workshops with, and decision support tools for resource managers to support drought planning and risk reduction. These activities are conducted in partnership with other agencies, tribes and states, and the National Drought Mitigation Center (University of Nebraska).

NIDIS effectiveness and achievement, include but are not limited to measures of: ● Number and type of projects that conduct and update risk and vulnerability assessments and assessment of user needs; ● Number of institutions with increased capacity and opportunities to inform drought risk management and reduce exposure to drought risks; ● Number of staff trained to respond to and mitigate impacts of climate related events; and, ● Increased percentages of the U.S. population covered by adequate drought risk and early warning information systems.

The NIDIS approach allows for - Developing an Information Pedigree-Relevant, authoritative, accessible, compatible/usable No substitute for monitoring and understanding local climates Place multiple indicators within a consistent triggering framework- - Overcoming impediments to information flow Existing barriers to cross-agency collaboration made explicit Innovations and new information to be introduced and tested, and The benefits of participation in design, implementation and maintenance to be clarified NIDIS is providing a dynamic and accessible drought information system that enables users to determine the potential impacts of drought, the associated risks, and the decision support tools needed to better prepare for, and mitigate the effects of drought. Specifically, NIDIS coordinates drought monitoring and forecasting systems; provides an interactive drought information clearinghouse and delivery system for products and services; and allows for mechanisms to improve and incorporate coordinated drought preparedness and planning.