New, Interactive Web Site -- Tracks Drought

November 1, 2007

The government today unveiled a new Web site for the public and civic managers to monitor U.S. drought conditions, get forecasts, and know how drought impacts their communities or what mitigation measures exist. Called the U.S. Drought Portal, the site was developed for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). A seemingly slow and nomadic natural disaster threat, drought blankets about a third of the United States at any given time.

“The new portal site provides all the information that managers need in one location, and delivers unprecedented access to key operational drought resources to answer the most pressing questions facing policymakers, emergency planners, businesses and the public,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Everyone now has the ability to learn facts they need: What are the current drought conditions, its effects and when will it end?”

NIDIS is a collaboration between numerous federal agencies and several state governments to provide a dynamic and accessible drought-risk information system. NIDIS was created in response to extended drought conditions over the past decade, with strong advocacy from the Western Governors’ Association and other groups. NIDIS, led by NOAA, coordinates use of the U.S. Drought Portal for drought risk assessment and management among its federal, state, tribal and local partners.

“The drought-related emergencies in the Southeast and Southern California underscore the importance of having timely, accessible, and actionable information on drought from the national to the local level,” said Chester Koblinsky, director of NOAA’s Climate Program Office. Koblinsky and Donald Wilhite, director of the University of Nebraska’s School of Natural Resources, co-chair the NIDIS Executive Council.

NIDIS is intended to strengthen public and private sector partnerships, foster and support research, create an early warning system to detect drought and raise public awareness about why drought occurs and its impact on humans and nature. The goal of NIDIS is to improve the ability to understand and respond to climate change, natural disasters, and global environmental issues through better observation, data, analysis, models, and basic social science research.

“The U.S. Drought Portal centralizes drought information in an unprecedented manner, and paves the way for planned early warning system development pilots in select watersheds and states across the U.S.,” said Roger Pulwarty, director of the NIDIS program office located on NOAA’s campus in Boulder, Colo.

Pulwarty said the portal also serves as a focal point for the U.S. commitment to cultivating information services for drought-risk management and adaptation internationally through the U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO). USGEO coordinates the U.S. contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Through the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the U.S. is working with international partners to enhance drought early warning capacities within and beyond U.S. borders. A North American Drought Monitor (NADM) program, established by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, is providing operational monitoring of drought conditions across the continent. The NADM and the U.S. NIDIS program are providing a pathway for the development of a global drought early warning system and new opportunities for responding to the growing threat of drought in the 21st century.

NIDIS is also a featured program that USGEO will be presenting at the upcoming international GEO Ministerial Forum to be held Nov. 30 in Cape Town, South Africa, where nations will share processes and technology with other nations around the world to increase societal benefits resulting from Earth observations.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America’s scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging GEOSS, NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.