A recent effort by the National Drought Mitigation Center (with funding support from the National Integrated Drought Information System) examined the ways that the USDM local and national expert network is building resilience into our nation’s capacity to monitor and respond to drought. We administered an online survey to the 421 members of the U.S. Drought Monitor listserv, with a 50% response rate. We looked at the U.S. Drought Monitor network through the lens of resilience, specifically the role that it plays in building cross-scale local, regional, and national networks, which adds redundancy and ongoing learning feedbacks in the national drought monitoring function. We also wanted to better understand how the USDM performs in helping facilitate both the development and dissemination of drought early warning information necessary for communities to be more responsive in managing drought risks.
We found the respondents to be highly engaged in drought monitoring networks and with the USDM process. Thirty-two percent of them have been involved in the USDM Listserv more than 10 years; thirty-six percent participate in the USDM Listserv on their own time and sixty-two percent said they contribute information to the USDM.
Many listserv members are involved in local networks to gather drought information: 56% are part of a state of regional drought monitoring group that coordinates input and 87% consult local contacts before providing input to the USDM. The listserv plays a positive role as a learning network and in advancing understanding of drought monitoring, particularly for increasing access to drought-related data and improving understanding of drought degradation and improvement over time, across the entire network. Almost 80% mostly or completely agree that the U.S Drought Monitor process improves communication among agencies across the country.
Participation in the listserv is seen as particularly benefitting the participating organizations’ ability to better track drought conditions and in helping communicate drought status to their customers. Most USDM Listserv participants are distributing U.S. Drought Monitor information to stakeholders, particularly colleagues, agencies, media, and end users/decision makers, through public presentations (61%), media interviews (49%), participation in drought task forces (49%) and other means.