For the California CA-NV region, droughts are a frequent occurrence, and understanding how a drought evolves is important to decision making. Unlike drought onset which is primarily initiated by seasonal climate variations, drought amelioration depends on current drought conditions (e.g. severity of drought) as well as future climate conditions (primarily precipitation). This aspect of drought amelioration suggests two main sources of predictability, specifically knowledge of (1) initial drought conditions and (2) future climate conditions. In other words, despite limited climate skill, an outlook for drought amelioration could still be skillful due to the portion of the skill being derived from the knowledge of current drought conditions.

At present, operational drought outlook systems do not harness both sources of skill in the context of drought amelioration. Here we propose to test a Drought Amelioration Outlook (DAO) system based on hydrologic model projections based upon NOAA and other agency 1-month lead climate forecasts. In doing so we will leverage from the UCLA Drought Monitoring System (DMS; PI Dr. Lettenmaier) for CA and NV which is an important resource for objective monitoring of the current state of drought conditions based on the state of soil moisture and snow drought. Here we propose to extend the utility of this system by using 1-month lead climate outlooks from NOAA and other agencies to provide estimates of drought amelioration. The proposed addition of 1-month lead climate outlooks to the UCLA DMS will help to provide answers to the above-mentioned questions and better inform decision makers during drought years. The proposed effort will be allocated equally towards the implementation of a DAO system as well as develop a process to gather feedback and understand how the information from the DAO is used by stakeholders in the region. As part of this process, the project will aim to understand how stakeholders use information given the uncertainty of the forecast.

To participate in the survey on forecast use click here.

Questions – contact Dr. Shraddhanand Shukla (UCSB;
Additional Research Team Members: Dr. Dennis Lettenmaier (UCLA) and Dr. Kristin VanderMolen (DRI)