National Drought Mitigation Center


Ranchers encouraged to become spotters for U.S. Drought Monitor

November 13, 2014

Mark Svoboda, NDMC Monitoring area program leader and US Drought Monitor author, shows California ranchers how the U.S. Drought Monitor is made each week. Photo courtesy of California Drought Watch.

By Paul Hosley, California Drought Watch

Farmers and ranchers attending a drought workshop at UC Davis were told their participation is key to making sure data displayed on U.S. Drought Monitor maps is accurate. 

Some ranchers have expressed concern with the level of drought severity shown on the maps, which can make a difference in drought disaster relief payments.

U.S. Drought Monitor climatologists urged individual growers and ranchers to report local drought impacts and conditions.

Attendees were asked how many currently act as observers for the Drought Monitor.

Four hands went up.

Climatologist Brian Fuchs then asked, “How many have rain gauges on your property?”

Dozens of hands in the air.

“Good, now all you have to do is email us your daily readings to be part of the monitor data base,” Fuchs said. “And if you can provide anecdotal examples, even better. If your pond has been dry for three months, we need to know that.”

The workshop, hosted by the UC Davis Rangeland Watershed Laboratory, was streamed live to several locations across the state. 

Watch videos of the webcast here

More coverage from Capital Press and from UC Davis Plant Sciences.

Additional commentary:

Ken Tate, professor and UC Cooperative Extension Rangeland Watershed Specialist, as well as the Russell L. Rustici Endowed Chair in Rangeland Watershed Sciences, at the Rangeland Watershed Laboratory, said, after listening to presentations by U.S. Drought Monitor authors,

“It was really informative. I certainly have a much better understanding now of how the monitor works. Speaking for our laboratory and the University of California, I can see a lot of ways we could work with you all and work with a broader group in California to better understand the information you need and the most efficient way for you and us to get the most helpful information so you guys can include it in your process.”

US Drought Monitor authors at the workshop were Brad Rippey, meteorologist in the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist, Brian Fuchs, NDMC climatologist, and Mark Svoboda, NDMC climatologist and leader of the NDMC’s Monitoring program. Svoboda said,  

“I think doing these types of stakeholder outreach activities is essential for user buy in and ‎illustrates how valuable their input can be to the USDM process, something I have stressed from Day 1 of the USDM. Our goal is to be totally transparent on how we make the map, so we welcomed the opportunity to engage directly with the California Cattlemen's Association and UC-Davis. I'm confident we're all on the same page now.

“In addition to thanking our hosts, UC Davis, I also want to thank the National Integrated Drought Information System for helping to make this workshop happen.”