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Drought and Monsoon Trackers: Informing Climate Services
A moderate to strong La Niña event took shape in June, 2010, and foreshadowed the onset of dry conditions in the Southwest. True to form, the La Niña expanded and intensified drought conditions across the region, elevating some areas to exceptional drought defined as droughts that occur, on average, once in every 50 years. The La Niña event, therefore, opportunity for the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), University researchers, and Cooperative Extension agents to rapidly respond to a developing climate event by provide valuable information to decision makers with an experimental climate service publication.
The La Niña Drought Tracker (Tracker) was first published in December, 2010 and continued for six months that winter/spring. It was a ptihy information packet disseminated by the Web that included summaries of current conditions and impacts, precipitations forecasts, and supplimental figures. Information was gleaned from discussions with regional experts and published, credible Web resources.
The goals of the project were to: 1) improve and expand the access of information related to drought conditions, 2) improve understanding of drought and climate, and their co-relation, 3) track how drought information is used in decision making during a timeline that make evolve from pre-drought conditions to severe drought, and 4) provide insights for the ongoing discussion on climate services.
During 2010-2011, more than 350 people read the Tracker each month, and in follow-up surveys determined that many decision makers found the Tracker informative and useful in the drought-related decision they made. A publication of the survey results is forthcoming.
The expansive and intense drought conditions that developed during the 2010-11 winter were present at the onset of the 2011 monsoon. This led to the publication of five issues of the Southwest Monsoon Tracker. La Niña also returned in the Fall of 2011, setting off the publication of another six issues of the La Niña Drought Tracker.