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Drought information services for agriculture in the United States through 2020

The partnership of the USDA/OCE and NDMC makes possible continued refinement of existing NDMC analytical and monitoring tools associated with production of the U.S. Drought Monitor. It also supports activities that include NDMC's development of new data blends for the USDM, workshops for USDM users, and other online and print resources for USDM users. Specifics include: 

Conduct outreach to agricultural producers through active collaboration with Climate Hubs on regional workshops and on educational materials. Workshops for specific regions have helped foster improved understanding of the U.S. Drought Monitor process and opportunities to contribute to it, as well as building drought resilience by helping ranchers and others plan and prepare for drought. The NDMC’s YouTube channel – go.unl.edu/droughtflix – includes videos made from workshop presentations and for ranchers. Training at USDA field offices helped create shared understanding of the U.S. Drought Monitor process. 

Develop, enhance and operationalize decision-making tools such as

  • Grass Cast, in collaboration with the Northern Plains, Southern Plains, and Southwest USDA Climate Hubs. The NDMC is working with closely with the Northern Plains hub to operationalize Grass Cast, in preparation for hosting it, and to produce video tutorials on how to use it.
  • Forest Drought Response Index (ForDRI), comparing climate records with tree-ring data to gain insight into forest response to drought. In addition to regression tree modelling, we are using random forest and principal component analysis, and we anticipate adding climate, satellite and environmental data, developing case studies on performance of ForDRI in drought years. We are working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, and anticipate gradually moving this concept toward an operational product. 
  • Short- and Long-term Objective Blends, incorporating new variables and data such as Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI), Evaporative Stress Index (ESI), Vapor Pressure Difference (VPD), Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI), Quick Drought Response Index (QuickDRI), and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

Serve diverse user groups, including Spanish-speakers and tribal nations, and islands such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. We added Spanish-language translation of the USDM map, narrative and brochure beginning in fall 2017, and the USDM website now provides maps and associated statistics for the Hopi, Navajo and Wind River tribal reservations. Maps and statistics for Puerto Rico, USVI and USAPI came on-line in spring 2019, and the Alaska map was revised to produce a better depiction of the Aleutian Islands. 

Develop ways to measure drought’s effects on people, exploring both qualitative and quantitative contributions of media reports, tweets or other social media, condition monitoring reports, photos depicting drought conditions in contrast with normal and wet conditions, and other new sources of data. The NDMC launched the Drought Impact Reporter in 2005 as the nation’s first comprehensive archive of drought impacts. It currently includes nearly 90,000 reports and more than 26,000 impacts culled from those reports. The ease of use of Survey123 contributed to collecting 1,400 reports from Missouri alone in 2018. The Survey123 effort has been formulated and publicized in close collaboration with Climate Hubs and other partners. Initial continuation of the SCIPP/CoCoRaHS “Visual Drought Index” is also via Survey123.

Promote and support use of advanced GIS for USDM authors. NDMC is working closely with the USDM author group and with ESRI to enhance a user-friendly ESRI-based drought monitor authoring tool, allowing for easy import and comparison of relevant data, as well as post-production and export functions.

Host, maintain and enhance the U.S. Drought Monitor website. Each week we add 30,000 map files to the site as well as associated data and narrative; we tweet and post the main map in both English and Spanish; and produce associated information for the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency, and the Agriculture in Drought product. We have also enhanced map legends and linework based on user testing and feedback from different groups, and enhanced information on “What is the USDM” based on frequently asked questions and issues that arose, such as the best way for people to participate in the process.

Produce value-added information including weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports on impacts and drought; educational content for the NDMC’s website; the U.S. Drought Monitor tutorial; and hundreds of media and public contacts per year.

By delivering these services, the NDMC provides the following direct benefits to the agricultural sector, USDA, and general public:

  • Free public access to websites and databases operated or supported by the NDMC or USDA, webinars, noted publications, or public meetings.
  • Enhanced two-way drought information services between agricultural decision makers and drought scientists.
  • Improved drought-specific decision support tools and producer risk management strategies.
  • Increased capacity within the agricultural sector to more effectively adapt to and cope with climate variability through adoption of innovative management options based on early assessment of drought severity, duration, spatial extent, trends, and timing.
  • Increased adoption of mitigation decisions by producers and communities to reduce future drought risk through behavioral changes and risk management strategies.

Through this project the NDMC provides additional technical assistance to support development of drought monitoring for areas such as the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico.

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