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  • Author or Editor: Kingtse C. Mo x
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  • Advancing Drought Monitoring and Prediction x
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Kingtse C. Mo
and
Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The current generation of drought monitors uses physically based indices, such as the standardized precipitation index (SPI), total soil moisture (SM) percentiles, and the standardized runoff index (SRI) to monitor precipitation, soil moisture, and runoff deficits, respectively. Because long-term observations of soil moisture and, to a lesser extent, spatially distributed runoff are not generally available, SRI and SMP are more commonly derived from land surface model–derived variables, where the models are forced with observed quantities such as precipitation, surface air temperature, and winds. One example of such a system is the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS). While monitoring systems based on sources like NLDAS are able to detect droughts, they are challenged by classification of drought into, for instance, the D0–D4 categories used by the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), in part because of uncertainties among multiple drought indicators, models, and assimilation systems. An objective scheme for drawing boundaries between the D0–D4 classes used by the USDM is explored here. The approach is based on multiple SPI, SM, and SRI indices, from which an ensemble mean index is formed. The mean index is then remapped to a uniform distribution by using the climatology of the ensemble (percentile) averages. To assess uncertainties in the classification, a concurrence measure is used to show the extent to which the different indices agree. An approach to drought classification that uses both the mean of the ensembles and its concurrence measure is described. The classification scheme gives an idea of drought severity, as well as the representativeness of the ensemble mean index.

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Martha C. Anderson
,
Christopher Hain
,
Jason Otkin
,
Xiwu Zhan
,
Kingtse Mo
,
Mark Svoboda
,
Brian Wardlow
, and
Agustin Pimstein

Abstract

Comparison of multiple hydrologic indicators, derived from independent data sources and modeling approaches, may improve confidence in signals of emerging drought, particularly during periods of rapid onset. This paper compares the evaporative stress index (ESI)—a diagnostic fast-response indicator describing evapotranspiration (ET) deficits derived within a thermal remote sensing energy balance framework—with prognostic estimates of soil moisture (SM), ET, and runoff anomalies generated with the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS). Widely used empirical indices based on thermal remote sensing [vegetation health index (VHI)] and precipitation percentiles [standardized precipitation index (SPI)] were also included to assess relative performance. Spatial and temporal correlations computed between indices over the contiguous United States were compared with historical drought classifications recorded in the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM). Based on correlation results, improved forms for the ESI were identified, incorporating a Penman–Monteith reference ET scaling flux and implementing a temporal smoothing algorithm at the pixel level. Of all indices evaluated, anomalies in the NLDAS ensemble-averaged SM provided the highest correlations with USDM drought classes, while the ESI yielded the best performance of the remote sensing indices. The VHI provided reasonable correlations, except under conditions of energy-limited vegetation growth during the cold season and at high latitudes. Change indices computed from ESI and SM time series agree well, and in combination offer a good indicator of change in drought severity class in the USDM, often preceding USDM class deterioration by several weeks. Results suggest that a merged ESI–SM change indicator may provide valuable early warning of rapidly evolving “flash drought” conditions.

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Eric F. Wood
,
Siegfried D. Schubert
,
Andrew W. Wood
,
Christa D. Peters-Lidard
,
Kingtse C. Mo
,
Annarita Mariotti
, and
Roger S. Pulwarty

Abstract

This paper summarizes and synthesizes the research carried out under the NOAA Drought Task Force (DTF) and submitted in this special collection. The DTF is organized and supported by NOAA’s Climate Program Office with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and involves scientists from across NOAA, academia, and other agencies. The synthesis includes an assessment of successes and remaining challenges in monitoring and prediction capabilities, as well as a perspective of the current understanding of North American drought and key research gaps. Results from the DTF papers indicate that key successes for drought monitoring include the application of modern land surface hydrological models that can be used for objective drought analysis, including extended retrospective forcing datasets to support hydrologic reanalyses, and the expansion of near-real-time satellite-based monitoring and analyses, particularly those describing vegetation and evapotranspiration. In the area of drought prediction, successes highlighted in the papers include the development of the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME) suite of seasonal model forecasts, an established basis for the importance of La Niña in drought events over the southern Great Plains, and an appreciation of the role of internal atmospheric variability related to drought events. Despite such progress, there are still important limitations in our ability to predict various aspects of drought, including onset, duration, severity, and recovery. Critical challenges include (i) the development of objective, science-based integration approaches for merging multiple information sources; (ii) long, consistent hydrometeorological records to better characterize drought; and (iii) extending skillful precipitation forecasts beyond a 1-month lead time.

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