According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 10 most severe droughts since 1980 have caused over $144 billion in damages, and current estimates are the 2012 drought will rank number one in anticipated financial loss with respect all disasters including previous droughts.

Drought Resources Collection

Webinars: EDEN Program Area Webinars and National VOAD Webinars
EDENotes Blog Post on Wildfire/Drought
EDEN- eXtension
EDEN Wildfire pages
EDEN Heatwave page

Types of Drought

According to the Glossary of Meteorology, a drought is a “period of abnormally dry weather sufficiently prolonged for the lack of water to cause a serious hydrologic imbalance in the affected area.” The timing and impact of drought can vary between regions of the United States.

Generally, a drought is a lack of water over a large area for a significant amount of time. It typically takes several months of below normal rainfall to move into long-term drought, and many months of above normal rainfall to recover from hydrologic drought. A drought can be divided into four different categories.
Meteorological – occurs when there is a significant departure of precipitation below normal values.
Agricultural – occurs when the soil moisture is not adequate for vegetation (crops) or livestock.
Hydrological – occurs when surface (lakes, rivers, reservoirs) and subsurface water (groundwater) levels are significantly below normal.
Socioeconomic – occurs when the physical water shortage begins to have an effect on daily life

How to Measure Drought

Many indicators can point to drought, including measurements of rain, snow, streamflow, temperature and soil moisture. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a compound index that takes many variables into account, including observations by a network of more than 350 climatologists, extension educators and others around the country. Established in 1999 as the product of a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the weekly map is now widely used by media and policymakers. Click here to view the latest U.S. Drought Monitor maps, statistics and other drought monitoring products.

Drought Impacts

Understanding impacts can help decision-makers at all levels reduce vulnerability to drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a well-established system for tracking drought impacts on agricultural production. Other drought impacts, such as psychological stress, illness due to reduced air quality, water quality concerns, and loss of wildlife habitat, are harder to track. Nonetheless, most drought planning processes recommend working with stakeholders from each sector that is affected by drought to identify and monitor impacts. Understanding impacts can help individuals and communities take steps to reduce long-term vulnerability.
One way to track drought impacts is the U.S. Drought Impact Reporter, an online, nationwide archive of drought impacts, launched in 2005 by the National Drought Mitigation Center, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Integrated Drought Information System. Impacts are accessible either via either a map or a search interface. The Drought Impact Reporter categorizes impact by sectors, including Agriculture, Water Supply and Quality, Fire, Energy, Tourism and Recreation, Other Business and Industry, Plants and Wildlife (environment), and Relief, Response and Restrictions (official actions). Information in the Drought Impact Reporter comes from media reports, agency reports, the CoCoRaHS observation network, and individual observers around the country.

Additional National Resources

Managing Drought -National Drought Mitigation Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln
USGS Water Resources of the United States – USGS
The NOAAWatch Web site is a web site offering information about ongoing environmental events, and explains the role of NOAA in prediction, monitoring, and recovery from environmental hazards. It provides public access to current information on a number of environmental threats ranging from drought, to oil spills, to hurricanes and tsunamis, to space weather.
The page can be accessed by going here.
NWS/SPC’s Severe Weather Information
Tom Priddy, EDEN POC for the University of Kentucky, has made available nationwide severe weather Web pages. By organizing information from the National Weather Service and the Storm Prediction Center, Priddy has made it possible for you to easily access real time severe weather information for your state.
The page can be accessed by going here.