Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Drought As The 'New Normal'

Date:
September 15, 2006
Source:
Geological Society of America
Summary:
Droughts are slow, tortuous emergencies that seem to sneak up on us. It doesn't have to be that way, say a climatologist and a political scientist who point to a better way.

Droughts are slow, tortuous emergencies that seem to sneak up on us. It doesn't have to be that way, say a climatologist and a political scientist who point to a better way.

It's perfectly possible to plan for droughts and minimize the losses they cause. In fact Australia has set in place policies that blaze a trail for the US follow to some extent, says Linda Botterill, a political scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Botterill is presenting drought policy lessons learned in Australia at the Geological Society of America conference entitled Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments: Creating a Roadmap for Change in the United States. The meeting takes place 18-20 September at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Longmont, Colorado.

"In policy terms drought is no longer considered a disaster," said Botterill, of the fundamental change in perspective when Australia adopted a national drought policy in 1989. The shift made perfect sense because of Australia's climate, in which drought is always an issue.

"We have one of the most variable climates on Earth," said Botterill. "We really don't have a 'normal' climate." Therefore it's absurd to treat every drought as an emergency, she said. "It should be managed as any other risk. Farmers need to factor in that they are not always going to get needed rainfall."

Like Australia, the most normal thing about climate in the Central and Western U.S. is that it has no norm. Unlike Australia, however, the U.S. still reacts to droughts as if they are unexpected emergencies -- which they aren't, says climatologist and drought policy specialist Donald Wilhite of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

"Drought is always out there," said Wilhite, who was part of a team that built the U.S. Drought Monitor website (see: http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html). "It's always affecting some part of the country."

What's more, reacting to droughts is more expensive than planning for them, says Wilhite, who will speak at the meeting on what's needed for the U.S. to shift from drought crisis mode to a more proactive risk management mode. Wilhite is also serving as the technical program chair of the conference.

Climate change and increasing population are not expected to make droughts any easier in the U.S., according to Wilhite. So there is no time to lose in creating a national drought policy.

"On average, drought losses are in the neighborhood of $6 to 8 billion per year," Wilhite said. "They're right on par with hurricanes and floods." In severe drought years like 2002 and 2006, the losses run much higher.

"We're trying to bring together all the players to work on the early warning side," Wilhite said. That means states, federal agencies, tribal governments, and municipalities pouring information into one place. Data collected and monitored will include soil moisture, rainfall, snow pack, stream flows, and groundwater levels.

Two bills are pending in the House and Senate to authorize funding for the program for the next several years. Called the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), the program is currently being implemented by NOAA.

The GSA meeting is not the first time Botterill and Wilhite have addressed this subject side-by-side. They've also co-edited a book entitled From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australia's National Drought Policy (2005).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Geological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Geological Society of America. "Drought As The 'New Normal'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060914180312.htm>.
Geological Society of America. (2006, September 15). Drought As The 'New Normal'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060914180312.htm
Geological Society of America. "Drought As The 'New Normal'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060914180312.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins