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Flash Drought Tools: Advantages and Disadvantages by Indicator Type
The term “flash drought” was coined in the early 2000s to draw attention to the rapid onset or intensification of drought conditions, which can cause large, unexpected environmental and socioeconomic impacts. As a result, flash drought is a target for improved early warning capability.
In 2021, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Weather Service hosted a three-part Flash Drought Webinar Series to help climate professionals and operational service providers better understand this phenomenon, its defining characteristics and how it varies by region and season, its impacts on agricultural and other stakeholders, and the potential for improved monitoring, prediction, and planning/response tools (datasets, maps, etc.).
From these presentations and subsequent discussions with subject matter experts, NIDIS developed a handout listing currently available tools. In addition, Dr. Trent Ford at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed this companion handout, which provides a quick snapshot of the general advantages and disadvantages of the primary indicator (evapotranspiration, precipitation, soil moisture, and integrated products).
It should be emphasized that there is no single best flash drought indicator or product; each approach provides different and often complementary information. Also, different regions and conditions require different approaches. This handout provides some general suggestions on how to consider using each type of indicator.