Assessing the Vegetation Condition Impacts of the 2011 Drought across the U.S. Southern Great Plains Using the Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI)

Tsegaye Tadesse National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Brian D. Wardlow Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technology, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Jesslyn F. Brown U.S. Geological Survey, Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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Mark D. Svoboda National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Michael J. Hayes National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Brian Fuchs National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Denise Gutzmer National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Abstract

The vegetation drought response index (VegDRI), which combines traditional climate- and satellite-based approaches for assessing vegetation conditions, offers new insights into assessing the impacts of drought from local to regional scales. In 2011, the U.S. southern Great Plains, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, was plagued by moderate to extreme drought that was intensified by an extended period of record-breaking heat. The 2011 drought presented an ideal case study to evaluate the performance of VegDRI in characterizing developing drought conditions. Assessment of the spatiotemporal drought patterns represented in the VegDRI maps showed that the severity and patterns of the drought across the region corresponded well to the record warm temperatures and much-below-normal precipitation reported by the National Climatic Data Center and the sectoral drought impacts documented by the Drought Impact Reporter (DIR). VegDRI values and maps also showed the evolution of the drought signal before the Las Conchas Fire (the largest fire in New Mexico’s history). Reports in the DIR indicated that the 2011 drought had major adverse impacts on most rangeland and pastures in Texas and Oklahoma, resulting in total direct losses of more than $12 billion associated with crop, livestock, and timber production. These severe impacts on vegetation were depicted by the VegDRI at subcounty, state, and regional levels. This study indicates that the VegDRI maps can be used with traditional drought indicators and other in situ measures to help producers and government officials with various management decisions, such as justifying disaster assistance, assessing fire risk, and identifying locations to move livestock for grazing.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Tsegaye Tadesse, National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 816 Hardin Hall, 3310 Holdrege St. P.O. Box 830988, Lincoln, NE 68583-0988. E-mail: ttadesse2@unl.edu

Abstract

The vegetation drought response index (VegDRI), which combines traditional climate- and satellite-based approaches for assessing vegetation conditions, offers new insights into assessing the impacts of drought from local to regional scales. In 2011, the U.S. southern Great Plains, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, was plagued by moderate to extreme drought that was intensified by an extended period of record-breaking heat. The 2011 drought presented an ideal case study to evaluate the performance of VegDRI in characterizing developing drought conditions. Assessment of the spatiotemporal drought patterns represented in the VegDRI maps showed that the severity and patterns of the drought across the region corresponded well to the record warm temperatures and much-below-normal precipitation reported by the National Climatic Data Center and the sectoral drought impacts documented by the Drought Impact Reporter (DIR). VegDRI values and maps also showed the evolution of the drought signal before the Las Conchas Fire (the largest fire in New Mexico’s history). Reports in the DIR indicated that the 2011 drought had major adverse impacts on most rangeland and pastures in Texas and Oklahoma, resulting in total direct losses of more than $12 billion associated with crop, livestock, and timber production. These severe impacts on vegetation were depicted by the VegDRI at subcounty, state, and regional levels. This study indicates that the VegDRI maps can be used with traditional drought indicators and other in situ measures to help producers and government officials with various management decisions, such as justifying disaster assistance, assessing fire risk, and identifying locations to move livestock for grazing.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Tsegaye Tadesse, National Drought Mitigation Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 816 Hardin Hall, 3310 Holdrege St. P.O. Box 830988, Lincoln, NE 68583-0988. E-mail: ttadesse2@unl.edu
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