Drought Monitoring

Drought Monitoring

At its inception, CLIMAS reported on climate and weather conditions and forecasts through its website and CLIMAS Update newsletter. Beginning with the 2002–2003 End InSight project, CLIMAS closely monitored drought and reported monthly on drought and hydroclimatic conditions through the Southwest Climate Outlook (now in collaboration with Arizona Cooperative Extension). The following section describes other CLIMAS activities related to drought monitoring.

Arizona Drought Monitoring

Monitoring drought status is the backbone of the 2004 Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan. CLIMAS scientists have been members of the multi-agency Arizona Drought Monitoring Technical Committee (MTC) since its inception, and CLIMAS continues to contribute to improvements in drought monitoring. The MTC reports drought status each month to the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR - the lead agency for drought) and in cases of severe drought, to an Interagency Coordinating Committee consisting of representatives from state and federal agencies.

Local Area Impact Assessment Groups

CLIMAS collaborated with Arizona Cooperative Extension and ADWR to develop an innovative program of county-level volunteer drought monitoring through implementation of Local Area Impact Assessment Groups (LAIAGs), as recommended in the Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan. The pilot group was formed in fall 2005 in Cochise County in southeastern Arizona and was made up of participants from across the county.

One function of the LAIAGs was to monitor and report drought impacts to the MTC. LAIAGs provide primarily qualitative reports of drought impacts. These reports were designed to aid the MTC in bridging a key gap in drought status assessments by helping to define the connection between quantitative monitoring data, such as precipitation and streamflow, and the impacts associated with various stages of drought severity. Some LAIAG volunteers also contributed unofficial precipitation observations to Arizona Rain Log, a collaboration between Arizona Cooperative Extension and the SAHRA NSF Science and Technology Center at the University of Arizona. Making the data-impacts connection helped decision makers and emergency managers in anticipating drought impacts and defining appropriate mitigation and response measures. It also helped communities understand local drought conditions and impacts, and better prepare for future drought.

Drought Impacts Database

With funding from The University of Arizona Water Sustainability Program, CLIMAS began development of a database of existing drought impacts from state agricultural data, news reports, wildlife statistics, and other sources. In conjunction with ADWR and the National Drought Mitigation Center, CLIMAS consolidated the database and developed protocols for data collection and input.

Capacity Building

A key aspect of developing climate services for the Southwest is building the capacity for citizens to understand climate information and use it in operations and decisions to mitigate drought-related risk. Over the last several years, CLIMAS and partners such as SAHRA, Arizona Cooperative Extension, the Arizona Water Institute, and others convened workshops on drought, climate variability, and climate change. The goals of the workshops were to improve understanding about climate and how it affects the Southwest, learn how to use various online tools to evaluate climate information, provide fundamental information about developing local-level drought plans, and learn about stakeholder needs for information on drought and climate change.