Improving Local Capacity of Early Warning Systems for Drought Across North America

Investigator(s): Mark Shafer, Commission on Environmental Cooperation (Secretariat), NDMC, NCEI, CPO, NIDIS, APA, Canadian and Mexican Counterparts
Research Dates: 2018 - 2021
Affiliate Organization(s): American Planning Association • University of Oklahoma • Commission on Environmental Cooperation (Secretariat) • National Drought Mitigation Center • National Centers for Environmental Information • Climate Program Office • National Integrated Drought Information System
stakeholder(s): Drought information and forecast providers

Canada, Mexico, and the United States have each developed national drought monitors and collaborate on the North American Drought Monitor. These monitors allow for depictions of current drought conditions as well as providing a starting point for preparing for and responding to droughts in the near term. Efforts to monitor drought across the continent has led to a network of professionals developing monthly monitors of drought conditions, as well as other tools and products that serve regions, states, provinces, and local communities. While drought to date has been understood in agricultural, meteorological, hydrological and socioeconomic, terms, it is now understood that drought’s footprint and impacts are broad and interact with many sectors and systems, including ecosystems, urban development and infrastructure. As the severity and range of droughts change and remote sensing improves, so must effective and accurate early warning systems, which help local and regional practitioners manage the risks and disasters that drought brings.

To better prepare for and respond to episodes of drought, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) gathered perspectives from meteorological and drought professionals across the continent to better understand current hydro- climatological realities, available data products, tools, and the needs of drought professionals to improve drought-related products and tools. Drawing from online surveys, stories from local experts and witnesses, and in-depth consultations during an annual workshop, the 2020 Drought Summit sought to gain core insights for improving the access to and use of the products and tools that may be used to understand vulnerability to drought and build resilience and respond effectively to it.

Insights from surveys and consultations showed opportunities for improving national and continental-wide early warning drought products and tools, namely in the areas of access, speed and accuracy, organization, and training for application. Gaps and lags in data remain. Drought monitoring can be improved, especially in rural regions, through the reciprocal partnerships with Indigenous and local drought knowledge holders and observers. Further, there is a need for greater cooperation across jurisdictions, and between sovereign nations, firstly to build stronger drought early warning resources, and then to integrate and apply them effectively to match the large footprint and transboundary nature of drought.

For the full report, click here.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top