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Drought and land-cover conditions in the Great Plains

September 7, 2018

Land–atmosphere interactions play a critical role in the Earth system, and a better understanding of these interactions could improve weather and climate models. The interaction among drought, vegetation productivity, and land cover is of particular significance. In a semiarid environment, such as the U.S. Great Plains, droughts can have a large influence on the productivity of agriculture and grasslands, with serious environmental and economic impacts. Here, we used the vegetation drought response index (VegDRI) drought indicator to investigate the response of vegetation to weather and climate for land-cover types in the Great Plains in the United States from 1989 to 2012. We found that analysis that focused on land-cover types within ecoregion divisions provided substantially more and land-cover-based detail on the timing and intensity of drought than did summarizing across the entire Great Plains region. In the northern Great Plains, VegDRI measured more frequent drought impacts on vegetation in the western ecoregions than in the eastern ecoregions. Across the ecoregions of the Great Plains, drought impacts on vegetation were more commonly found in grassland than in cropland. For example, in the “Northwestern Great Plains” ecoregion (which encompasses areas of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska), grassland and nonirrigated cropland were observed in VegDRI to have historical fractional drought coverages in the growing season of 17% and 11%, respectively.

Publication Year 2018
Title Drought and land-cover conditions in the Great Plains
DOI 10.1175/EI-D-17-0025.1
Authors Heather J. Tollerud, Jesslyn F. Brown, Thomas Loveland, Rezaul Mahmood, Norman B. Bliss
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Earth Interactions
Index ID 70201057
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center