Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Getting real: Drought as the 'New Normal'

18.09.2006
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).

Ann Cairns | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.geosociety.org
http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>