Martin Hoerling – Why Drought Regimes? – Drought regimes are an enduring feature of North America’s climate history. Paleo-reconstructions reveal especially long-lived dry periods during 900-1300. One wonders if such extreme behavior is possible in today’s climate. Estimates of drought during the instrumental period since the late 19th Century reveal distinct regime behavior also, though not as severe a occurred a millennia early. These dry epochs are not merely the result of a single, especially severe drought event, but are typically a series of recurring droughts. They sometimes strike the same portion of the nation year-over-year (e.g., southern Plains in the 1950s), while at other times, drought tends to progress and appears to spread across the contiguous U.S. over an extended period (e.g. in the 2000s). Concerns that a new regime of sustained and severe drought may now be taking hold over the U.S. grain belt, harkening perhaps to the 1930s, has been triggered by the recent drought events in the Great Plains that began in 2011 over southern portions and expanded to central portions in 2012.
Why drought regimes? Do the various drought epochs that have plagued the U.S. during of the last century have common causes? Are these underlying causes predictable, and thus what prospects may exist for early warning? Further, given the recent proliferation of severe U.S. drought during a period in which national temperatures approached their warmest on record, the question arises if climate change is now exerting an appreciable effect on sustained drought risks. A few examples, drawn from ongoing research on droughts occurring in long climate simulations, illustrate challenges and opportunities that suggest pathways for future research.
Mark Svoboda – The National Drought Mitigation Center: Translating Research into Usable Information – Since its inception in 1995, the NDMC has been working with users from around the world at all scales to deliver products and information aimed at promoting a risk management strategy. Various stakeholder engagements have been conducted over the years reaching thousands of users as a means of collecting and incorporating their feedback into our research/development, operational and outreach activities. Integrating information into something our users (K-Adult) can use is a primary goal of every decision support activity we undertake. This presentation will highlight several recent NDMC activities and partnerships that illustrate how research and information can help support our nation’s drought preparedness.
Mark Shafer – Research Directions Emerging from the 2011-2013 Southern Plains Drought – The Southern Plains Drought brought together scientists and practitioners to understand the causes of the drought and help manage its impacts. While the partners very effectively conveyed information, including frequent updates on seasonal and drought status and outlooks, many more needs emerged. The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, a NOAA RISA Team, led a webinar series in which more than a dozen topics related to drought were discussed by both scientists and practitioners. These conversations revealed an array of needed research, tools and services to better prepare for the next major drought. This discussion will highlight the lessons learned and how SCIPP and others are beginning to tackle some of these challenges.
Eric Wood – Developing a capability to estimate the probability of drought recovery – The societal impact of drought can be reduced through planning and preparation. One of the great challenges facing seasonal climate forecasting is the skillful prediction of drought onset, intensification and termination. The prediction of the termination of drought by seasonal climate models is less skillful than climatology (average drought duration, given the regional climate.) In this talk a probabilistic approach to estimating drought recovery is presented and applied to the condition across CONUS in the Spring of 2013. The approach builds on NLDAS research in estimating initial land surface conditions and the ensemble of historical meteorology to force land surface models (i.e. an ESP approach), whose products (e.g. soil moisture as a drought index) are fit to copula statistical models. The results are probabilistic estimates that the drought variable (at a location or over a region) will exceed a pre-specified threshold at some future time. The approach easily lends itself to be operationalized within EMC/NECP NLDAS drought portal.