Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1992


Published in Great Plains Research 2:2 (August 1992), pp. 312-313. Copyright © 1992 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


This effort by Riebsame, Changnon, and Karl is a well-written, well organized examination of the 1987-89 drought from both a scientific and sociological perspective. Through their investigation of society's and government's handling of this drought event, the authors make a strong case that "despite a decade of growing interest in the social and economic impacts of climate fluctuations ... the nation remains ill-prepared to cope with unusual climate conditions."

In the first chapter, Riebsame et al. briefly present how past droughts have impacted the U.S. and how society/government has typically managed (or mismanaged) those past drought events. They also present their goals in writing this book. Next, the authors look at the 1987-89 drought from a climatological perspective. This is accomplished in several ways; percent of the contiguous U.S. in severe or extreme drought (as defined by the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index), percent of normal precipitation during specific periods of time over climatic divisions, and direct comparisons of this drought to the 1930's and 1950's drought. Due to the sheer number of figures presented in this chapter, the reader must constantly flip back and forth to find the figures referred to in the text. This became annoying after a short time.