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Lack of Moisture Connected to Drought Propagation in North America


Article written by Courtney Byrd, MAPP Program Assistant

Droughts have disastrous impacts on the agricultural, economic, and public health sectors. With the formation of droughts still being researched, scientists ability to forecast droughts for North America has been greatly affected. In a new research paper, Julio E. Herrera‐Estrada and co-authors used reanalysis data from 1980-2016 in combination with a moisture-tracking model to identify the effects that reduced moisture transport has in drought formation and dissemination in North America. They found that a decrease in moisture transport upwind resulted in more droughts across the United States. They also found that due to a lack of moisture exports, agricultural droughts upwind caused significant droughts downwind. In particular, the decreased moisture transport from land areas accounted for 62% of the precipitation deficiency in the high-profile Midwest drought of 2012. Furthermore, a decline in recycled moisture within a region corresponded to a decrease of transported moisture to that region. These results suggest that land‐surface may contain useful information for drought prediction, and highlight the importance of sustainable land‐use and of regional cooperation for drought risk management.

This study was supported by the Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections (MAPP) Program.

Read the paper here>>


About MAPP
The Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program is a competitive research program in NOAA Research’s Climate Program Office. MAPP’s mission is to enhance the Nation’s and NOAA’s capability to understand, predict, and project variability and long-term changes in Earth’s system and mitigate human and economic impacts. To achieve its mission, MAPP supports foundational research, transition of research to applications, and engagement across other parts of NOAA, among partner agencies, and with the external research community. MAPP plays a crucial role in enabling national preparedness for extreme events like drought and longer-term climate changes. For more information, please visit

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