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Developing an Objective, Impacts-Based Framework for Drought Mitigation Activities in Ohio

NIDIS Supported Research
NIDIS-Supported Research
Main Summary

Managing climate-related risks to water resources is a grand societal challenge, with uncertain and potentially severe outcomes. This management can be more effective when there is a solid foundation of information and tools for identifying threats and evaluating their consequences, as well as potential actions to achieve resilience. The specific risk management challenge in the Ohio River Basin is planning for and managing hydroclimatic extremes. 

Drought is the costliest, most widespread, and longest duration of weather-related catastrophes. Drought has regularly caused severe damage and loss of life throughout the Midwest through a myriad of mechanisms, including agricultural loss of crops and livestock, water quantity and quality issues, and impacts on public health. For example, the 2012 drought resulted in billions of dollars of economic losses, 123 deaths, and a 26% decrease in corn yield. Severe droughts also affected the region in 1988, 1991, and 2005.

This project, which is being led by the State Climate Office of Ohio (SCOO) in partnership with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA), will develop a system to track and assess drought intensity in Ohio and produce real-time drought monitoring products. The expected outcome of this project is the provision of timely and accurate drought information and tools to support science-driven decision-making and to enhance adaptive capacity specifically for Ohio EMA and a broader group of partners across Ohio and the Midwest. While the primary focus is to develop sustainable tools to support Ohio EMA, the methods that are developed in this project for assessing drought impacts—and determining impacts-based drought thresholds—can be readily applied by other states. Therefore, this project can be viewed as a state-level pilot to inform regional and national best practices on drought monitoring and drought impact assessment.

The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Evaluate existing drought monitoring tools and identify which are most appropriate for Ohio EMA. The research team anticipates that the most appropriate index/tool will vary by season, location, and type of drought (meteorological, agricultural, environmental, hydrological, and socioeconomic). In addition, Ohio-specific objective drought blends will be generated to improve the characterization of different types of drought.

  2. Deploy an operational drought monitoring system based on results of Objective 1. This operational drought monitoring system will provide a high-resolution depiction of drought conditions within Ohio, and it will be used to inform the Ohio EMA drought monitoring and drought early warning.

  3. Assess the impacts of past drought events in Ohio and quantify how these impacts vary by drought type, drought severity, and sector. This project will leverage our partnership with Ohio EMA and the Drought Assessment Committee to develop a comprehensive catalog of drought impacts from droughts that have influenced Ohio over the last 30 years.

  4. Develop objective, impacts-based thresholds for triggering drought mitigation and response activities. As described above, the current drought indices and drought triggers that are used by Ohio EMA in the Drought Incident Annex have not been customized for Ohio and were not developed using an impacts-based methodology. This project will leverage the drought impacts information collected from our partners and the methods developed through previous research by Quiring, Leasor, and collaborators to develop objective, impacts-based thresholds to improve the existing decision-making process.

For more information, please contact Molly Woloszyn (

Research Snapshot

Research Timeline
June 2020 – August 2022
Principal Investigator(s)
Steven Quiring, Ohio State University
Project Funding
Focus Areas (DEWS Components)

What to expect from this research

  • Journal articles and communication pieces for the Midwest DEWS on the project, including:
  • Ohio Drought Dashboard (experimental)
  • Drought impacts database and tables for Ohio
  • Best indicator/tool for each season and location in Ohio and type of drought

Key Regions

Research Scope
DEWS Region(s)