Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Michael J. Hayes

Second Advisor

Deborah J. Bathke

Third Advisor

Mark D. Svoboda

Date of this Version



Noel, M. 2019. Developing a Framework to Link Multi-Sector Drought Impacts to Drought Severity at the State Level. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resources Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professors Deborah J. Bathke and Michael J. Hayes. Lincoln, Nebraska: August 2019

Copyright 2019 Mary E. Noel


The United States Drought Monitor, a weekly map depicting severity and spatial extent of drought, is a key indicator for federal and state policy decisions including the annual distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars for agricultural financial relief in the United States. However, the current table describing potential drought impacts for the map’s severity levels fails to adequately represent a state’s unique environmental, economic, and social values affected by drought. One approach to improve this broad, national-scale assessment is to transition from the former platform to a more detailed characterization of drought impacts at the state level. To accomplish this, state and regionally specific drought impact classification tables were developed by linking multi-sector, qualitative impacts chronicled in the Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) to historic USDM severity levels across the United States and Puerto Rico. After creating state-level tables, a nationwide survey was administered to local experts and decision makers (n=89), including the USDM authors, in an effort to capture greater resolution of drought impacts at a local level. As a result, 76% of responses indicated the state table as acceptableor goodwhen classifying drought impacts in their respective state. This updated classification scheme builds a narrative supported by a reproducible methodology that can be simulated in future research for a multiplicity of drought events to better understand the complex relationship between drought severity and corresponding impacts.

This thesis includes one manuscript (Chapter Two) currently in preparation for potential publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The thesis highlights methodology, products, and next steps surrounding the drought impact classification table scheme, building upon the importance of enhancing qualitative impact reporting and drought characterization.

Advisors: Deborah Bathke and Michael Hayes