Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version



Published in Identifying and Coping with Extreme Meteorological Events, edited by E. Antal and M. H. Glantz, pp. 267-280 (Budapest: Hungarian Meteorological Service, 1988).


The ability to collect weather data in near-real time has improved because of technological advances, enabling weather data users to obtain more weather data over wider areas, and in a more timely fashion. The number of near-real time climate networks is increasing as new applications are found for climate data. More than fifteen states in the United States have established automated weather station networks. This paper presents an overview of recent developments in automated weather data collection in the United States and gives a detailed description of the network in Nebraska.

Near-real time weather data has many applications in agricultural decision making and in other economic sectors as well. Automated networks such as the one that exists in Nebraska can provide a practical, efficient, and cost-effective way of monitoring drought and assessing its impacts. In the United States, drought monitoring activities have been developed, at times, to support drought planning efforts by state government.

Drought planning can be defined as actions taken by government, industry, individual citizens, and others in advance of drought for the purpose of mitigating some of the impacts associated with its occurrence. Planning for drought /i.e., risk management/ has been shown to be more effective than the traditional approach /i.e., crisis management/. Activities associated with drought planning include the development of a monitoring or early warning system, operational impact assessment programs, an institutional structure for coordinating governmental actions, appropriate drought assistance programs, financial resources to maintain operational programs and initiate research required to support drought assessment and response activities, and educational programs to promote the adoption of appropriate drought mitigation strategies.

Drought plans must be integrated within national and state or provincial levels of government, including regional organizations and the private sector, where applicable; they must also be adaptable to many sociopolitical situations and levels of government. A ten-step planning process is proposed in this paper as a way of developing drought plans that are appropriate to many sociopolitical situations and levels of government.

Nebraska's Drought Assessment and Response System /DARS/ was established in 1985 to provide timely and systematic data collection, analysis and dissemination of drought-related information. The Automated Weather Data Network /AWDN/ in Nebraska serves as one of the principal sources of information for the DARS. The development and operational characteristics of the AWDN are described in this paper. When properly used, timely data and informational by-products generated by the AWDN can help reduce and sometimes avoid impacts associated with extreme weather.