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The North Central CASC researchers and partners contributed to a comprehensive drought assessment report that identifies ways to improve drought assessments that factor in a changing climate.

Drought assessments are critical for forecasting and managing water resources, for guiding drought mitigation strategies related to agriculture, ecosystems, and communities, and for informing policy decisions. To discuss these issues around drought, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Hubs, co-hosted a Drought Assessment in a Changing Climate Technical Working Meeting that North Central CASC researchers, including the North Central CASC’s climate science lead, Imtiaz Rangwala; assistant regional administrator, Aparna Bamzai-Dodson; and Tribal Engagement Specialist, James Rattling Leaf, Sr., and other drought experts attended. A summary of the participants' contributions and ideas are captured in the report “Drought Assessment in a Changing Climate: Priority Actions & Research Needs” that emphasizes 15 different, but necessarily connected, areas where new approaches, research, and actions are needed to continue improving drought assessments.

The impacts of drought are vast – affecting everything from wildfires to water quality, to farming, recreational opportunities, and mental health. Encouragingly, the drought indicators that can be used to help mitigate these impacts can be continually improved with updates and validations from real-world observations. For instance, integrating diverse data sources, enhancing spatial and temporal resolution, and incorporating climate change impacts are all ways to improve drought indicator performance. Importantly, the indicators become most useful when they include input from stakeholders like farmers and Tribal Nations that face unique challenges in drought planning due to a lack of funding and monitoring stations. 

By way of better data collection and drought assessments, the United States has already made significant strides to help communities across the country effectively prepare, mitigate, and respond to drought. The drought report can help create even more accurate and timely assessments of drought that are critical for planning water resource management and policy.  

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