Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version



2002 American Meteorological Society


Drought experts from the United States, Canada, and Mexico met at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, for a three-day workshop in late April 2002 to discuss the U.S. Drought Monitor program and to develop a plan for initiating a new program of drought monitoring for North America. Since its inception in 1999, the U.S. Drought Monitor (DM) has been extremely successful in assessing and communicating the state of drought in the United States on a weekly basis. This success, and the recognition that an ongoing comprehensive and integrated drought assessment was needed throughout all three countries, led to a commitment to build a continent-scale program on the model of the DM. The new drought monitoring program is part of a broader effort to improve the monitoring and assessment of climate extremes across the continent through a cooperative effort that was established in 2001 between the three countries.

Drought monitoring has become an integral part of drought planning, preparedness, and mitigation efforts at the national, regional, and local levels. Drought can develop in all regions of the continent, and its effects can be devastating. Since 1980, major droughts and heat waves within the United States alone have resulted in costs exceeding $100 billion (inflation-adjusted), easily becoming one of the most costly weather-related disasters on the continent during that time (Lott and Ross 2000). The presence of severe to extreme drought in approximately 30% of the United States at the beginning of June 2002, heavy agricultural losses, water restrictions, and numerous large wildfires throughout much of the western United States are reminders of the devastation that can result from prolonged precipitation deficits.