New Tools, Ideas for Monitoring and Predicting Drought and its Impacts
With drought covering much of the country and even intensifying in some areas, better understanding of its status and impacts would be extremely beneficial to anyone affected by drought. In an attempt to assist in this endeavor, CLIMAS, the Southwest Climate Science Center, and the Carolinas Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments collaborated to identify opportunities and barriers associated with monitoring and reporting drought impacts, and to develop a path forward. They determined that understanding the full range of drought impacts, from infrastructure damage to economic losses, is critical for planning and mitigation. However, numerous challenges exist regarding the collection and synthesis of data, particularly the need to assess the cumulative effects of multiple stresses and characterize second-order impacts. Yet opportunities and strategies exist to improve monitoring and the integration of drought impacts reporting into decision making, such as evaluating existing tools and investigating ways to integrate datasets and information into drought assessments. Most importantly, according to the authors, a more comprehensive effort and greater coordination among projects and programs is needed to improve our understanding of drought impacts.
Meanwhile, NOAA has created a new drought monitoring tool to give more timely and accurate drought predictions. Previously NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center produced only seasonal (3-month) predictions, but the new tool provides monthly predictions, facilitating short-term, drought-related decision making. The July outlook shows drought improvement throughout New Mexico, eastern Arizona, southern Colorado, and a small portion of Oklahoma and Texas; drought elimination in isolated parts of Texas, Arizona, and Kansas; and drought persistence over the rest of the West.