13A.4 Facilitating the Use of Drought Early Warning Information through Interactions with Agricultural Stakeholders

Thursday, 26 January 2017: 2:15 PM
604 (Washington State Convention Center )
Jason A. Otkin, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; and T. Haigh, M. A. Shafer, M. Svoboda, B. Wardlow, M. C. Anderson, and C. Hain

Drought is often thought of as being a slowly developing climate phenomenon; however, recent events across the central U.S. have shown that drought can develop very rapidly if extreme weather anomalies remain over the same area for periods as short as a few weeks.  Low rainfall, hot temperatures, strong winds, and sunny skies can together act to quickly deplete root zone soil moisture, thereby leading to the rapid emergence of agricultural drought conditions.  It has become common in recent years to refer to these rapid onset drought events as “flash droughts” to better distinguish them from other types of drought.  Flash droughts can have an impact on agriculture that is more severe than that associated with a slower developing but longer lasting drought simply because there is less time to prepare when drought develops so quickly.  Drought early warning during these rapidly evolving situations, however, is difficult to obtain using existing drought forecasting products that tend to focus on seasonal time scales.  Early warning systems could be enhanced by integrating new datasets that provide information over sub-seasonal time scales necessary for early detection of flash drought.

Recent research has shown that drought early warning signals can be identified using the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI), which depicts anomalies in evapotranspiration using land-surface temperature data from satellite thermal infrared imagery and a land surface energy balance model.  Drought signals often occur in the ESI several weeks prior to their appearance in other drought indices.  To better understand how this early warning information could be used to mitigate drought risk, focus group meetings were convened with stakeholders in two NIDIS drought early warning pilot regions in the central U.S. Results from these meetings will be presented along with a discussion on how they facilitated the more effective dissemination of drought information.

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