Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version



Published in Agricultural Drought Indices: Proceedings of an Expert Meeting, June 2-4, 2010, Murcia, Spain, pp. 35-48, edited by M. V. K. Sivakumar, R. P. Motha, D. A. Wilhite, and D. A. Wood (Geneva: World Meteorological Organization, 2011).


Drought has had a significant impact on American agriculture. The Dust Bowl years of the 1930s came as the nation suffered from severe economic depression, causing devastating socioeconomic impacts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established agencies and programs to help American farmers cope with drought and its far-reaching impacts. In order make program decisions during drought emergencies, USDA actively utilized available drought monitoring tools that were at its disposal. The Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) was used for more than 30 years as a drought indicator beginning in the 1960s. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a much-improved composite index, was introduced in 1999 and was used as the USDA drought trigger shortly thereafter. A review of these programs and activities is presented.