New Tools Available for Drought Monitoring
November 18th, 2013
Several federal agencies have partnered to provide tools and information to help monitor, plan for, and recover from drought. The Drought Resilience Partnership, led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recently launched the U.S. Drought Portal to serve as a clearinghouse for this information.
According to a recent NOAA report, nearly 10% of U.S. watersheds are living beyond their water supply, and climate change will exacerbate this trend. In order to help inform climate-friendly decision-making, the new website will monitor current droughts, assess impacts, compare past and present trends, and provide drought forecasts. The Partnership also plans to coordinate soil moisture monitoring through a National Soil Monitoring Network.
The partnership announcement follows at the heels of President Obama’s November 1 Executive Order on Preparing the United States for the Impact of Climate Change. In it, the President directed agencies to remove barriers that discourage investments in climate resilience and to reform policies and funding programs that may, even unintentionally, increase the vulnerability of communities and natural resources to climate change.
This summer, we reported on several USDA initiatives to help farmers and ranchers adapt to a changing climate, focusing in particular on USDA’s new guidelines on crop insurance and cover crops. Planting cover crops is a practice that not only improves agricultural resiliency by retaining soil moisture and reducing soil erosion, but also sequesters carbon in the soil. Clarifying crop insurance policies to avoid inadvertently discouraging this beneficial practice is one significant step of many that USDA can take to promote agricultural practices with known climate benefits across USDA programs.