A new drought risk management and preparedness research center, funded by the NOAA National Integrated Drought Information System will focus on ways to prepare the nation for drought events.
The center is funded by the NIDIS will be housed with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The center will focus on research to improve drought monitoring, impacts assessment and risk management in close partnership with NIDIS and its federal, state, tribal and local partners. These efforts will advance preparedness for drought events and contribute to mitigation of its impacts, said NOAA's Climate Protection Office, which will help administer the center.
According to CPO, drought affects every state in the U.S. Since 1980, more than 20 drought events have cost the nation at least $1 billion each, according to the National Center for Environmental Information's "Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters" listing.
The most expensive drought in the last 35 years affected much of the nation from June through August of 1988, and cost an estimated $40 billion, with losses to agriculture and related industries the most severe.
Combined direct and indirect deaths due to heat stress numbered about 5,000, NOAA said.
Many remember the 2012 drought, which was the most extensive since the 1930s. It affected more than half the country for most of the year. Costs were at least $31 billion. Impacts from 11 more drought events have tallied costs between $5 billion and $29 billion.
Now, as long-term drought bears down on California, and as the Southern Plains climbs out of an extensive 2014 drought, the new center aims to help link people and administrators with research.
"The formation of the Drought Risk Management Research Center strengthens NOAA and the federal-state partnerships that help to make the nation more resilient to drought," said Roger Pulwarty, director of NIDIS. "It will fill a vital role in linking the best available research, data and information to states and communities as they plan for and cope with the impacts of this pervasive hazard."
"I was very pleased to learn that we'll be the home of the new Drought Risk Management Research Center," said
Michael Hayes, director of the NDMC, said the Center's location with the DRMRC reinforces a longstanding relationship between all of the included partners.
"The emphasis on research will help us address critical needs related to drought monitoring, impact assessment and planning strategies," Hayes said. "One of our goals will be to help states and other entities learn from each other based upon what they have experienced, such as what is happening across the West right now, and become more resilient to droughts in the future."
CPO says the new center will:
• Help to develop improvements to the U.S. Drought Monitor and supporting products and tool;
• Engage and integrate socio-economic information across all scales of drought preparedness and impacts;
• Advance the societal and economic benefits of regional drought early warning systems;
• Advance innovations in planning for drought, including incorporating drought information into multi-hazard mitigation planning; and
• Help to communicate and coordinate drought-related activities across the NIDIS partner network.
Announcement of the Center follows closely a string of announcements from the USDA indicating that a larger focus of drought research and policy efforts will be on resiliency.
In changes announced last week, USDA said it planned to update its policies to better integrate climate change adaptation, including drought risk management, into its programs and operations.
USDA says the changes are consistent with the USDA Strategic Plan and with guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality and the Federal Council on Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience.
In April, the Department listed 10 "building blocks" that will use partnerships and other resources to work with farmers in implementing new ways to farm more efficiently as part of its effort to adapt to climate change.
They build on the USDA "climate hubs" announced in 2013, and are in line with White House efforts to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.