Guest Commentary: NOAA Resources Help Communities to Meet Current and Future Drought Challenges

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances powerful tools to help water districts and utilities address climate variability

Understanding and preparing for weather and climate risk are rapidly evolving fields. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) is dedicated to developing products and services that prevent loss of human life, improving management of natural and societal resources, and making our economy more resilient to extreme weather and climate risks.

Robert Detrick Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

Robert Detrick
Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

Water is our most critical resource —our livelihoods and economies depend on whether we have enough and whether we use that amount appropriately and efficiently.

Drought is an extreme threat to our water resources, which can bring about crop failure, reduced hydropower and irrigation capacity, ecosystem impacts and the potential for wildfires. Drought-related impacts cross a broad spectrum of economic and environmental services sectors from wildfire to energy, tourism and recreation. In 2012, estimated losses in the agricultural sector alone were upwards of $35 billion.

As a part of NOAA’s initiative to build a “Weather-Ready Nation,” OAR is producing forecasting products and climate information services at scales needed by decision makers and communities to prepare for the effects of future droughts.

Drought conditions at Lake Hartwell, SC

Drought conditions at Lake Hartwell, SC

Successfully addressing these issues relies on a combination of good science and good government to help people and the affected communities properly manage their resources in the face of a changing climate. NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program, established in 1995,  and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), enacted in 2006, do exactly that.

NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program supports research teams that enhance the nation’s capacity to prepare for and adapt to effects of climate change by developing decision support tools, conducting applied research and supporting management responses to natural disasters, environmental change, and climate related challenges—including drought. RISAs work at the interface of science and society to increase capacity for assessing impacts and making decisions in a rapidly changing environment.