U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Earth Interactions Volume 16 (2012); DOI: 10.1175/2012EI000446.1


Copyright 2012, Paper 16-015; 8424 words, 18 Figures, 0 Animations, 3 Tables.


The international scientific community has long recognized the need for coordinated drought monitoring and response, but many factors have prevented progress in the development of a Global Drought Early Warning System (GDEWS): some of which involve administrative issues (coordinated international action and policy) while others involve scientific, technological, and logistical issues. The creation of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Portal within the United States provided an opportunity to take the first steps toward building the informational foundation for a GDEWS: that is, a Global Drought Information System (GDIS). At a series of workshops sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Group on Earth Observations (GEO) held in Asheville, North Carolina, in April 2010, it was recommended that a modular approach be taken in the creation of a GDIS and that the NIDIS Portal serve as the foundation for the GDIS structure. Once a NIDIS-based Global Drought Monitor (GDM) Portal (GDMP) established an international drought clearinghouse, the various components of a GDIS (drought monitoring, forecasting, impacts, history, research, and education) and later a GDEWS (drought relief, recovery, and planning) could be constructed atop it. The NIDIS Portal is a web-based information system created to address drought services and early warning in the United States, including drought monitoring, forecasting, impacts, mitigation, research, and education. This portal utilizes Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) web mapping services (WMS) to incorporate continental drought monitors into the GDMP. As of early 2012, the GDM has incorporated continental drought information for North America (North American Drought Monitor), Europe (European Drought Observatory), and Africa (African Drought Monitor developed by Princeton University); interest has been expressed by groups representing Australia and South America; and coordination with appropriate parties in Asia is also expected. Because of the range of climates across the world and the diverse nature of drought and the sectors it impacts, the construction and functioning of each continental drought monitor needs to be appropriate for the continent in question. The GDMP includes a suite of global drought indicators identified by experts and adopted by the WMO as the necessary measures to examine drought from a meteorological standpoint; these global drought indicators provide a base to assist the global integration and interpretation of the continental drought monitors. The GDMP has been included in recent updates to the GEO Work Plan and has benefited from substantial coordination with WMO on both their Global Framework for Climate Services and the National Drought Policy efforts. The GDMP is recognized as having the potential to be a major contributor to both of these activities.