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The capacities and challenges for drought monitoring in the Pacific

Pacific RISA Research Fellow Dr. Kati Corlew recently returned from the 2013 US Drought Monitor Forum, held this year April 16-18 in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Dr. Corlew gave a presentation that introduced to the drought monitoring community the unique circumstances encountered in the efforts to monitor and measure drought levels in the Hawaiian Islands and the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI).  The US Drought Monitor is a national program that tracks indicators and impacts of drought in localities across the US. The US Drought Monitor website contains a drought map that has been refined over time to reflect the needs of decision makers and those who use the information. Drought Monitor authors synthesize many drought indicators into this single map that identifies areas of the country that are abnormally dry (D0), in moderate drought (D1), in severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3) and exceptional drought (D4).  While the Drought Monitor already covers the 48 contiguous states, Hawai‘i , Alaska, and Puerto Rico, several federal partners are now working to bring a US Drought Monitoring-style system to the USAPI region.  The tool is being designed to report the specific conditions of the Pacific Islands on a weekly basis.  Therefore, those working on this expansion of the tool, as well as partners from the other regions of the US, were interested to hear from Dr. Corlew about the capacities and challenges of monitoring the Pacific Islands.

What is the current status of the Pacific Islands Drought Monitor?

At last week’s forum, Dr. Corlew represented not only Pacific RISA, but also two federal offices working hard to build drought monitoring and reporting capacity in the Pacific Islands:  The Pacific ENSO Applications Climate (PEAC) Center, based in Honolulu, and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The Pacific Islands drought monitoring tool may be connected to the US Drought Monitor in the coming few months, or may be integrated into one of two other tools—the North American Drought Monitor or the Global Drought Monitor. Important next steps include moving the monthly scientific consensus discussions about Pacific Islands drought levels and impacts to weekly, which will put them in line with the US Drought Monitor’s weekly reports. To do this, partners must automate the precipitation data system to report daily precipitation levels. PEAC and NCDC expect to put these improvements into action over the next few months.

View the Presentation

Dr. Kati Corlew’s presentation about drought monitoring in the Pacific Islands is available to download and view here (3.20 MB):

Drought Monitor Forum Presentation_Corlew

About the US Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country. It is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday.

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