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2023 National Integrated Drought Information System Annual Report

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The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is pleased to share our 2023 Annual Report to provide insight into the many accomplishments of the program over the previous year and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Drought took an enormous toll on our nation’s economy in 2023, and reminded us all that no region of the country is fully spared from the magnitude of its impacts. Drought in the United States expanded and intensified in summer 2023, largely influenced by not only lack of precipitation, but extreme heat and evaporative demand. While the number and size of wildfires were relatively small in the western U.S. compared to recent years, unhealthy levels of smoke still poured into the contiguous United States from record-breaking Canadian wildfires, and a wildfire in dry Maui destroyed the town of Lahaina. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the costliest of all 2023 billion-dollar events was the Southern/Midwestern Drought and Heat Wave in the spring–fall of 2023, totaling $14.5 billion. The Lower Mississippi River Basin, an area reliant on healthy inland waterways to fuel our Nation’s economy, plunged to new lows along the gate of the river, leading to saltwater intrusion and drinking water quality issues in southern Louisiana, along with significant river commerce disruption. Drought across the Southern Plains persisted for a second year in a row, impacting agricultural producers and small communities throughout Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

The need for more localized, targeted, sector-specific drought information integrated into decision-making grows increasingly urgent with each of these drought events. As we look back on 2023, we are struck by all that NIDIS and our many partners achieved to advance drought early warning capacity and build long term resilience. 2023 was a groundbreaking year for the NIDIS Program, from launching a technical workshop and releasing a NOAA Technical Memorandum that examines drought assessment in a changing climate, to hosting the second Flash Drought Workshop and refining our pursuit of research and actions that helps us better understand rapid onset drought events, to building trusted relationships and important dialogues with tribal partners across the Missouri River Basin and Upper Columbia River Basin in September. Long-standing technological investments and partnerships in research and state-of-the-art cloud computing were harnessed to kick-off the build-out of a drought planning platform in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The platform will soon provide the nation with a resource for planners to better determine their drought and associated climate risks, and incorporate resilience strategies that prepare their communities for the droughts of the future. 

Inside this report, you will see how we are advancing these and other national initiatives, as well as implementing on-the-ground activities across our eight regional Drought Early Warning Systems.

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Cover page of the 2023 NIDIS Annual Report.