Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version

April 2000


Published in Drought Network News Vol. 12, No. 1, Winter 1999–Spring 2000. Published by the International Drought Information Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska – Lincoln.


The idea of better monitoring and assessing drought has been a quest of NDMC director Don Wilhite for more than two decades. He has been an advocate of better climate monitoring, particularly drought monitoring, because drought is a normal, recurring hazard in virtually all of the United States. The challenge is to recognize drought, a slow-onset or “creeping” natural disaster, before a region is in the middle of one.

The most recent surge in interest in drought arose during the 1995–96 drought in the Southwest and southern Great Plains states. At the NDMC we discussed how we could do a better job of tracking and assessing the severity of droughts. One question we often hear is “How does this drought compare, or rank, to other droughts or the drought of record for this region or state?” Or “Just how strong or severe is this drought?” These are complicated questions to tackle. We have to take into account spatial extent, intensity, duration, and impacts on people and the affected environment. That discussion is for another time.

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