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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>