Natural Resources, School of


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DOI: 10.1175/JHM-D-18-0198.1


With the increasing use of the term ‘‘flash drought’’ within the scientific community, Otkin et al. provide a general definition that identifies flash droughts based on their unusually rapid rate of intensi- fication. This study presents an objective percentile-based methodology that builds upon that work by identifying flash droughts using standardized evaporative stress ratio (SESR) values and changes in SESR over some period of time. Four criteria are specified to identify flash droughts: two that emphasize the vegetative impacts of flash drought and two that focus on the rapid rate of intensification. The method- ology was applied to the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) to develop a 38-yr flash drought climatology (1979–2016) across the United States. It was found that SESR derived from NARR data compared well with the satellite-based evaporative stress index for four previously identified flash drought events. Furthermore, four additional flash drought cases were compared with the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), and SESR rapidly declined 1–2 weeks before a response was evident with the USDM. From the climatological analysis, a hot spot of flash drought occurrence was revealed over the Great Plains, the Corn Belt, and the western Great Lakes region. Relatively few flash drought events occurred over mountainous and arid regions. Flash droughts were categorized based on their rate of intensification, and it was found that the most intense flash droughts occurred over the central Great Plains, Corn Belt, and western Great Lakes region.