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What’s the criteria for identifying flash droughts? New study says rapid onset, not short duration


“Flash drought” has become a popular term in the media, but the debate of what a flash drought really is has caused confusion that affects scientists’ ability to detect their onset, monitor their development, and understand how they evolve. A new early online release in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) recommends that droughts which develop much more rapidly than normal be identified as flash droughts.

Published by Jason Otkin of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the paper also discusses the importance of monitoring tools and forecasting methods, such as producing drought intensification forecasts at weekly intervals to show changes in conditions over subseasonal time scales. The focused definition of a flash drought provided by this study will help put in place the most appropriate monitoring and forecasting tools for such events to help advance the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

This study is supported by NOAA Research’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections Program (MAPP) in partnership with the NIDIS program as part of the NOAA Drought Task Force. Click here to read the BAMS paper.


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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