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U.S. Drought Monitor analyzed for National Weather Service areas

February 22, 2018

New enhancements to the U.S. Drought Monitor allow production of area maps for Weather Forecast Offices and River Forecast Centers that are tailored to their service area boundaries, such as the Quad Cities office shown here.

Talking about the local effects of drought may be a little easier with the latest maps and statistics added to the U.S. Drought Monitor website. Readily tweetable maps for Weather Forecast Offices and River Forecast Centers are tailored to their service area boundaries. They typically encompass several counties.

These new enhancements to the U.S. Drought Monitor are supported by the Drought Risk Management Research Center, a partnership between the drought center and the National Integrated Drought Information System. The new products enable 121 WFOs and 12 RFCs covered by the U.S. Drought Monitor to show people exactly how drought affects their area. Accompanying statistics and time series graphs, available for some time now, help round out the picture.

The new products are tailored to local boundaries, but they are part of an assessment of broad-scale conditions. Please consult with local experts and decision-makers for specific guidance, such as whether to implement stricter water conservation.

Maps for local forecast offices will round out a suite of products that already includes national, state, river basin and other options, enabling the National Weather Service to better meet the needs of decision-makers at more scales, said Ray Wolf, NWS Central Region Climate Services program manager in Davenport, Iowa. “For the Quad Cities, we’re half in Iowa and half in Illinois. One focused right on our office will fit right in to how we want to display the information,” he said. “Having a local entry point is helpful.”

The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosts and maintains the U.S. Drought Monitor website and associated products. These enhancements to the U.S. Drought Monitor are supported by the Drought Risk Management Research Center, a partnership between the drought center and the National Integrated Drought Information System. The Drought Monitor is produced each week through a collaboration between the drought center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Brian Fuchs, drought center climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author, said that the new maps are in response to requests from Weather Service staff. “With these new maps, people can really see it more locally,” he said. “They can look at the information and say, ‘How is it applicable to me?’”

Find the new maps on the U.S. Drought Monitor website: droughtmonitor.unl.edu