National Drought Mitigation Center

Global Activities

The National Drought Mitigation Center has had a strong international component since it was established, building on the earlier success of the International Drought Information Center.

The NDMC works across the United States and the world, as shown by shading on the map. Countries in darker blue are places we worked in 2022.

2022 Activities

  • Global: The NDMC kicked off a $1 million project with the Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force Weather Agency, to monitor drought “hot spots” around the globe. The NDMC is developing a global composite drought indicator that combines several elements of the climate and hydrological cycle into one objective measure of drought conditions that can be fused with socioeconomic vulnerability data using machine learning.
  • Germany and Switzerland: NDMC Director Mark Svoboda is one of 15 independent experts engaged with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Intergovernmental Working Group based in Bonn, Germany. The NDMC is also partnering with the United Nations’ Science-Policy Interface and the Integrated Drought Management Programme, a joint effort of the UN World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership based in Geneva, Switzerland. These non-governmental, international collaborations are designed to promote knowledge sharing and facilitate the development of actionable policy measures focused on drought and drought impacts, desertification and land degradation.
  • South America: The NDMC continued its work with the Drought Information System for Southern South America, or SISSA, and the World Meteorological Organization to enhance regional drought resilience. The NDMC worked with the six member countries of SISSA (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) on a workshop focused on drought preparedness and strategies for regional drought risk management. The NDMC also began working in partnership with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service to develop drought monitoring and planning tools for Peru’s agricultural industry.
  • Southern Africa: The NDMC continued its ongoing effort with the World Bank and the Southern African Development Community to build composite drought indicators and drought monitoring capacity across southern Africa. The goal of the partnership is to develop objective measures for monitoring conditions in the drought-prone region, tailored for each country’s needs and priorities, and eventually facilitate a standardized, trans-boundary tool for drought monitoring and early warning across the region that can be incorporated into drought planning and response.
  • Caribbean: The NDMC continued to build its long-term partnership with the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology with backing from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The NDMC and local partners wrapped up a series of workshops on historical drought impacts to the region, agricultural drought risk and strategies for proactive drought response.
  • United States: The NDMC continues to work with agencies, local governments and individuals at every level on drought monitoring, response, preparedness and planning in the U.S. We partnered with the USDA Regional Climate Hubs to develop workshops and new drought tools across almost every region. We’re working with tribal governments, agricultural producers and climate service providers in the Southwest on climate-smart strategies for Indigenous farmers and drought resilience knowledge sharing. We’re providing guidance on the National Climate Assessment for the Northern Great Plains Region, and we continue to be supported by the USDA Office of the Chief Economist to enhance the capabilities of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

2021 Activities

  • The World Bank and the National Drought Mitigation Center teamed up to work with the countries of the Southern African Development Community to enhance drought preparedness. That work includes helping countries develop composite drought indicators based on available data, tailored for key sectors and vulnerabilities, with an aim to help better trigger mitigation measures.
  • The NDMC worked with the United Nations’ Science-Policy Interface, with the Intergovernmental Working Group of the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Integrated Drought Management Programme. Both efforts centered on developing and recommending actionable policy measures to build and/or enhance resilience to drought, desertification and land degradation.
  • The NDMC and long-time partner, the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, with backing from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is hosting a series of workshops to enhance annexes to agricultural drought risk management plans for Grenada, Saint Lucia and other countries, with drought response stages incorporating information about historically observed impacts in each nation.
  • The NDMC continued its work with the Drought Information System for southern South America (Spanish acronym, SISSA) and the World Meteorological Organization. At a virtual workshop ‘based’ in Uruguay, country representatives assessed how well their nations were prepared for drought. The overall aim is to help countries in this region implement an integrated, proactive risk management approach in dealing with drought. Participating countries are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
  • The Drought Center continued to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist and Climate Hubs, as well as states, tribes, and other agencies and organizations that are involved in drought monitoring, response, preparedness and planning. The center also wrapped up a 5-year project with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) in 2021.

2020 Activities

  • Before the spread of the coronavirus shut down travel, members of the NDMC team traveled to Eswatini in early 2020 to continue work with the World Bank and our in-country partners on enhancing drought preparedness strategies and creating drought monitoring resources that, like the U.S. Drought Monitor, can provide regular snapshots of drought and help direct aid and assistance to places and people where it is most needed.
  • In partnership with the International Water Management Institute, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins University and others, NDMC team members completed work to adapt a drought monitoring system to the local environmental conditions of partners in the MENA region — Jordan, Morocco and Lebanon — so that the system can be operated locally. The multifaceted MENA drought project, funded by USAID, brought experts in drought monitoring, forecasting and management together to strengthen resilience in one of the most water-stressed regions of the world.
  • NDMC director Mark Svoboda is one of 15 independent experts invited by the United Nations to take part in the UNCCD Drought Initiative. It was created in part to provide drought planning expertise for officials who are creating plans in their home countries. The UNCCD mandate states that the Intergovernmental Working Group that Svoboda will serve on “supports over 70 countries in designing comprehensive national plans of action ready to be activated well before the drought strikes.”
  • In May, the NDMC teamed with the Drought Information System for southern South America (or SISSA, for its Spanish acronym), to help create plans to increase drought resilience. Initially scheduled to be an in-person workshop, the online event included representatives from six SISSA member countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) as well as other countries of South and Central America. Workshop participants and leaders assessed current capabilities of each country represented at the meeting in regards to the three pillars of drought policy — monitoring and early warning, vulnerability and impact assessment, and mitigation and response — with the goal of developing proactive national policies and preparedness plans aimed at reducing societal vulnerability and increasing resilience to drought.
  • Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent, and farmers and others there have endured some of the warmest years on record since 2005, including a historic drought in 2019. Programmers with the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Applied Climate Sciences have worked with NDMC programmers to develop an Australian combined drought indicator CDI. A CDI incorporates multiple data sets, including rainfall, soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and vegetation stress, to examine current drought conditions.
  • In 2019, NDMC director Mark Svoboda and Jae-Young Park of Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water) signed a memorandum of understanding between the National Drought Mitigation Center and K-water following Svoboda’s keynote talk at the International Asian Drought Forum, held during the grand opening of the Korean National Drought Information and Analysis Center. In 2020, the two sides continued to work toward goals outlined in the memorandum, including the development of improved drought early warning and risk management systems.
  • Growers of Midwestern specialty crops face high risks due to climate extremes such as drought, but are sometimes ignored in drought management outreach. Now, producers have new resources to turn to help them make decisions during drought years, available on the National Drought Mitigation Center website. The NDMC has released a set of fact sheets and decision calendars that provide month-by-month and seasonal advice on how growers manage production of Midwestern apple, grape, cranberry and irrigated potato crops during drought years. To create the resources, the project team met with specialty crop growers in three Midwestern states and conducted focus groups to learn what they considered to be the most important decisions they made, when they made them and how those decisions led to better vegetable and fruit production outcomes during drought.
  • Staff from the NDMC worked in conjunction with the USDA’s Southwest Climate Hub to bring together drought management leaders from the Southwest and Southern Plains to establish a Drought Learning Network (DLN) where communities learn from communities. The meeting’s goals included documenting stakeholder experiences during drought, leveraging service provider resources and options to better meet needs via a DLN and establishing a collective approach and timeline for the development of a regional DLN. Six teams were developed as part of the DLN, each one focusing on specific issues related to drought in the region.
  • Held in July, the virtual workshop highlighted drought issues prevalent in the region. The workshop included a discussion about the making of the U.S. Drought Monitor, and how local climate experts contribute to the weekly process, as well how some USDA programs are affected by U.S. Drought Monitor designations. Sessions focused on peer-to-peer learning for the East side of the region, as well as the West. During both sessions participants were engaged in discussion and information exchange about drought adaptation strategies and information needs.

2019 Activities

  • In January, National Drought Mitigation Center director Mark Svoboda traveled to southern Africa to meet with meteorological, natural resource emergency management and planning experts from Botswana and Eswatini thanks to a partnership with the World Bank.
  • In February, NDMC climatologist and remote sensing expert Tsegaye Tadesse participated in the first AFIPS workshop, where researchers and leaders gathered to discuss the cultural, economic and societal impacts of space science development in Ethiopia and other African nations.
  • In March, Svoboda was invited to deliver a keynote speech and serve as the co-chair of the drought working group at the WASAG conference, where the theme was “Leaving No One Behind.” The goal was to identify practical, innovative and collaborative solutions to address water scarcity in agriculture in a changing climate.
  • In March, NDMC’s Tonya Haigh and Tonya Bernadt spoke to producers about a project intended to improve drought early warning information and provide a seasonal outlook for specialty crop growers.
  • In May, former NDMC director Michael Hayes and planning coordinator Cody Knutson traveled to Jordan, where they and International Water Management Institute staff organized a workshop funded by USAID. Svoboda also travelled to Morocco, and joined Knutson, Hayes and NDMC outreach coordinator Deborah Bathke in Jordan in October for a MENA project workshop.
  • In May, Bathke facilitated a drought workshop in Juneau as part of the center’s work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The event was designed to prepare stakeholders to transition from a snow to rain-dominant system.
  • In November, Knutson and Hayes facilitated the Lower Missouri River Tribes Adaptation Planning Workshop hosted by the Santee Nation.

2018 Activities

  • NDMC Director Mark Svoboda was an invited expert and traveled to Bonn in February to collaborate with other SPI members in an effort to translate current scientific research into key policy recommendations. He returned in October to continue work on the project. 
  • Svoboda was invited to speak at the national geospatial conference in March, during which experts discussed how Earth observation technology can impact New Zealand in terms of industry, environment and climate. Svoboda also met with government officials and private sector parties during the visit.
  • Svoboda attended the 2018 World Water Forum, a gathering for water experts, water managers and organizations from around the world that are involved with water issues. “Among other aspects, water as a human right to life was discussed, as well as investments in technology and water security, adaptation actions to climate change, water use in agriculture and energy consumption,” according to a WWF recap of the March event.
  • NDMC staff, including Mark Svoboda, Deborah Bathke, Brian Fuchs, Tsegaye Tadesse and Curtis Riganti, attended the spring meeting, which focused on trilateral advances in the North American Drought Monitor.
  • Assistant Director Kelly Helm Smith represented the NDMC at the GlobeDrought workshop for stakeholders taking place in Bonn, Germany, in May. The GlobeDrought project aims to develop, test and implement a global drought information system for comprehensively characterizing drought events and their impact on water resources, crop productivity, food trade and the need for international food aid. It is one of 12 projects funded under “Global Resource Water (GROW),” part of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
  • Svoboda gave a keynote talk at the International Asian Drought Forum, which was held during the grand opening of the Korean National Drought Information and Analysis Center. Svoboda and Jae-Young Park of Korea Water Resources Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding between the National Drought Mitigation Center and K-water following the event. Additionally, Svoboda gave a day-long training workshop on drought early warning and risk management to K-Water staff.
  • NDMC Climatologist Deborah Bathke and Assistant Director Kelly Helm Smith represented the center at this workshop to identify critical drought impacts to island systems. The workshop was co-sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, the Department of the Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center, and the USDA’s Caribbean Climate Hub.
  • Social scientist and NDMC planning coordinator Cody Knutson and former NDMC Director Michael Hayes co-led a workshop to provide feedback to experts conducting vulnerability assessments in the region as part of a project funded by the ICBA and the USAID. Svoboda visited Dubai later in the year and conducted a high-level drought risk management policy workshop with the ICBA team and partnering countries to work on a regional drought management system in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Svoboda attended the August event, and participated as part of the center’s USAID Middle East North Africa (MENA) project. The theme for the event, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), was “Water, Ecosystems and Human Development.” Svoboda also attended side meetings of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the World Meteorological Organization’s Integrated Drought Management Program meetings while in Stockholm.
  • NDMC’s Tsegaye Tadesse, a climatologist and remote-sensing expert, traveled to Addis Ababa to lead training sessions and participate in the Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute’s research scientist program meetings in September.

2005-2017 Activities

  • NDMC director Mark Svoboda was a speaker at the International Tropical Agriculture Conference, TropAg 2017, held in November in Brisbane, Australia. The 2017 conference theme was “high impact science to nourish the world”. While in Australia Svoboda also consulted with livestock producers at the University of Southern Queensland.
  • In October NDMC and partners NASA, Addis Ababa University, and Ethiopia’s Meteorological Society and National Meteorological Agency presented a workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia about Seasonal Prediction of Hydro-Climatic Extremes for the Greater Horn of Africa for agencies and organizations working on predicting and managing climate extremes in the region.
  • Mark Svoboda served on the advisory committee of the World Meteorological Organization’s Integrated Drought Management Program, based in Geneva, Switzerland, and run by the WMO and the Global Water Partnership.
  • Mark Svoboda gave the keynote presentation at the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Conference on Drought Management and Preparedness held in Santa Cruze de la Sierra, Bolivia in August. The conference was co-hosted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Bolivian government.
  • NDMC climatologist and remote sensing expert Tsegaye Tadesse was the keynote speaker and a panelist at the International Agro-meteorology Conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July. The theme of the conference for researchers, policymakers, educators, NGOs, and others was “Climate Information for Climate Resilient Agriculture: Enhancing Agro-meteorological Services to Build Climate Resilient Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia.”
  • NDMC collaborated with researchers from Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom as part of DrIVER project to investigate connections between drought, vulnerability thresholds, and impacts. The Belmont Forum one of the project funders, also hosted a final meeting for the project in Freiburg, Germany.
  • NDMC and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture conducted a Drought Vulnerability Assessments Training Workshop in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to train experts from many countries in the region as part of a project funding by USAID.
  • NDMC conducted drought planning writeshops in Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Saint Lucia with the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology to improve regional drought resilience.
  • Provided assistance to the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology to conduct "writeshops" on Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitt's and Nevis,  to help residents of those islands and other eastern Caribbean nations enhance drought resilience.
  • Led  workshops on drought planning and management in Jordan, Morocco and Tunesia for stakeholders participating in the Middle East and North Africa project.
  • Worked with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai, UAE to help transfer a new, composite drought index to open-source programming, paving the way for countries to tailor it to their own needs.
  • Hosted drought impact and indicator workshops in North Carolina and Australia and contributed to a workshop in the United Kingdom to help prepare for drought and anticipate impacts using the Drought Impacts: Vulnerability thresholds in Monitoring and Early Warning Research (DrIVER) project.
  • Collaboration with the Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies, also based at UNL, the University of Maryland, College Park, and several Moroccan ministries on a World Bank-funded project that led to creation of the Morocco Composite Drought Index in 2015.
  • Consultation for United Nations agencies such as the World Meteorological Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, USAID, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and others. The NDMC's founding director, Dr. Donald Wilhite, was one of the organizers of the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy, March 11-15, 2013.
  • Facilitation of a National Drought Policy Capacity Building Workshop for the Asia/Pacific region, held in Hanoi, May 6-9, 2013.  Similar capacity building workshops were given in August 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for East Africa, and another for West Africa.  A workshop for Central and Eastern Europe was held in July 2013, and another for Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Brazil in December 2013.
  • Serving on the World Meteorological Organization and Global Water Partnership's joint initiative, the Integrated Drought Management Programme. Mike Hayes, former NDMC director, is on its advisory committee, and Wilhite chaired the initiative’s advisory and management committees. Wilhite developed the National Drought Management Policy Guidelines: A Template for Action,  published by the IDMP. The IDMP maintains a list of drought strategies on its website, and is sponsoring regional pilot programs for Central and Eastern Europe, for the Horn of Africa, and for West Africa.
  • Participation in efforts to build the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), launched at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and by the Group of Eight.
  • Working with the European Commission on MEDROPLAN, to develop drought preparedness guidelines for the countries in the Mediterranean region.
  • Working with other regional and national drought centers. Don Wilhite, founding director of the NDMC, served as a consultant to help establish a Drought Management Center for Southeast Europe, hosted by Slovenia.
  • Welcoming visiting scientists and students from around the world. Past visitors have included Jaroslav Vido, a Ph.D. student from Slovakia, studying the impacts of drought on selected ecosystems; Jinsong Wang, from the Institute of Arid meteorology in Lanzhou, China, who was studying drought monitoring and impact issues; and Linda Botterill, an Australian drought policy expert.
  • Organizing and hosting a December 2009 workshop in Lincoln, Nebraska, for experts from around the world to select a single index as the global standard for monitoring meteorological drought. The NDMC participated in follow-up workshops on hydrological and agricultural drought indexes that were held, respectively, in Geneva, Switzerland, and in Murcia, Spain.
  • Collaborating with Canadian and Mexican authors to produce the North American Drought Monitor.
  • Collaborating with a group of scientists in the Czech Republic and Austria to enhance understanding of drought and soil climates, climate change and climate variabiilty.
  • Making presentations, consulting or and conducting workshops on drought monitoring and planning in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Jordan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
  • Conducting training on the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). The NDMC has distributed the SPI to more than 150 scientists in 60 countries around the world.