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Map of Intermountain West DEWS region, which includes Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and part of western New Mexico.
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Drought Early Warning System

Intermountain West

Drought can take different forms across the Intermountain West. This region includes many different climatic, geographic, economic, and social conditions. These include deserts and forests, fertile valleys and alpine peaks, densely populated cities, and some of the most remote landscapes in America. The monsoon is a dominant driver of summer weather in the southwest, while the jet stream has a greater impact on weather systems in the northern states. Droughts may onset quickly and last a season or come on gradually and last decades. In addition to (and because of) the highly variable precipitation, all five states in the Intermountain West also depend on the over-allocated Colorado River for a consistent water supply. The Intermountain West DEWS helps foster interstate coordination to cope with current and future droughts and growing water demands and supports increased communication and collaboration between scientific, water, and land management communities.

Primary contact: Joel Lisonbee, Regional Drought Information Coordinator

Events

Regional Activities

Regional Activities Summary

The following table highlights activities in the Intermountain West that are ongoing efforts related to drought, involve multiple partners, serve as a unique way to address regional drought needs, and are related to at least one of the components of drought early warning. Please contact Joel Lisonbee (joel.lisonbee@noaa.gov) for more information about the table or to inquire about getting an activity added to the list.

DEWS Component Legend

Observation & Monitoring
 
Planning & Preparedness
 
Prediction & Forecasting
 
Communication & Outreach
 
Research & Applications

Select filters to browse DEWS Activities below

Description

This project is investigating how hypothetical reduction of 300,000 acre-feet of irrigation water for Pinal County agriculture would impact on the local economy.

Scope
State
Key Partners
Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS, a NOAA RISA Team), University of Arizona, National Climatic Data Center, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, USDA, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Irrigation Districts
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components
Description

This project examines potential climate change and variability adaptation strategies related to water and energy in the Colorado River and Rio Grande Basins, including northwestern Mexico.

Scope
Region
Key Partners
Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS, a NOAA RISA Team), University of Arizona, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, USDA, New Mexico Office State Engineer, University of Nevada Reno, University of Colorado, Sonoran Institute, The Nature Conservancy
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components
Description

This project examines the role of water management information and irrigation technologies in agricultural adaptation to climate variability and change in the 17 westernmost U.S. states.

Scope
Region
Key Partners
Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS, a NOAA RISA Team), University of Arizona, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Yuma County Water Users Association
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components
Description

The Arizona Drought Monitoring Technical Committee produces web-based short-term and long-term drought status updates on a monthly and quarterly basis, respectively.

Scope
State
Key Partners
Arizona Drought Monitoring Technical Committee, Arizona Department of Water Resources
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components
Description

The Arizona Drought Interagency Coordinating Group is an advisory body to the governor on Arizona drought issues. Composed of state, federal, and non-governmental organizations, this group meets…

Scope
State
Key Partners
Arizona Drought Monitoring Technical Committee
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components

Observation + Monitoring

Monitoring drought across the diverse climates of the Intermountain West DEWS region can be difficult. For example, a drought in the Sonoran Desert may look very different from a drought in the Wasatch Mountains. The Southwest counts on the summer monsoon while the Rocky Mountain regions rely on winter snowpack to get through the dry summer months. The Colorado River is the main water source for most of the Intermountain West, and winter snowpack in the Colorado Rockies usually sets the tone for drought conditions across most of the region from year to year. River forecasts across the Colorado River Basin are available through the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.

Regional Data and Maps

WaterWatch is a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) World Wide Web site that displays maps, graphs, and tables describing real-time, recent, and past streamflow conditions for the United States.

The National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook is intended as a decision support tool for wildland fire managers, pr

The "groundwater watch" web pages group related wells and data from active well networks, and provide basic statistics about the water-level data collected by USGS water science centers for Coopera

NOAA and its partners publish regional reports each quarter, summarizing weather, impacts and predictions.

Maps displaying counties declared primary (red) or contiguous (orange) disaster counties by the Secretary of Agriculture.

The USFS Active Fire Mapping Program is an operational, satellite-based fire detection and monitoring program that provides near real-time detection and characterization of wildland fire conditions

Planning + Preparedness

Thoughtful preparations and effective policies can help communities cope with drought impacts when they happen. The states of the Intermountain West DEWS region all have plans for responding to drought. These have been produced by the state agencies responsible for the states' drought response and are linked on this page.

For other groups within the region (counties, cities, industry groups, farms, and businesses) that would like to create their own drought plan, we have included links to resources on this page. Or, contact the regional DEWS Coordinator, Joel Lisonbee, for some ideas on how to get started.

Regional Drought Planning Resources

Document Date
May 2019

Prediction + Forecasting

Across the Intermountain West, the timing of precipitation or a dry spell is an important aspect of water resource management. When will drought start? How long could the drought last? When will the monsoon start? How long will this year's snowpack last? This section includes resources for drought prediction and forecasting across various time scales. The appropriate time scale will depend upon your local climate, local crop cycles, local water demand, and the types of decisions being made (tactical or strategic).

Regional Forecasts and Outlooks

This tool, available as part of The Climate Toolbox, provides a graphical summary of seasonal climate forecasts of temperature and precipitation for the next sever months for a selected location.

NWS WPC produces Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts (QPFs) that depict the amount of liquid precipitation expected to fall in a defined period of time.

NCEI provides precipitation data that can be used to show probability or the amount of precipitation to ameliorate or end a drought at different monthly scales.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) produces temperature and precipitation outlooks for the U.S., including 6-10 day, 8-14 day, monthly, and seasonal outlooks.

NWS provides a wide selection of forecast maps for temperature and precipitation for the next 12 hours to 6 days.

This tool, available as part of The Climate Toolbox, provides a table of future climate projections from an average of 20 global climate models under either high or low future greenhouse gas emissi

Communication + Outreach

NIDIS’s mission for the Intermountain West includes providing those affected by drought with the best available information and resources to better prepare for, mitigate, and respond to the effects of drought. This includes communication and outreach by NIDIS and our partners within the drought early warning network.

The resources here highlight upcoming events or communications tools (podcasts, videos, social media) that are relevant to the Intermountain West. Did we miss something? Let us know by emailing the Intermountain West DEWS Coordinator, Joel Lisonbee.

Regional Communications Documents

Research + Applications

The Intermountain West DEWS region has a strong research presence, which includes 17 research universities and two NOAA RISAs:

  • The Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS)
  • Western Water Assessment (WWA).

NIDIS is committed to working with researchers to better understand how drought impacts life in the Intermountain West and how to more effectively mitigate drought impacts in the future.

Regional Interdisciplinary Research

Intermountain West Partners