By Veva Deheza, NIDIS Executive Director
We are excited to release our first Annual Report of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) to provide insight into the many accomplishments of the program over the previous year and the opportunities that lie ahead.
In 2019, the United States felt the impact of droughts across Southeastern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, numerous Southwestern and Plains states, and a widespread flash drought in the Southeast and Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Yet, it was also one of the wettest years in U.S. history. Most of the Missouri River Basin was drenched with record-breaking precipitation and never reached abnormal dryness. Record flooding along the Mississippi River Basin took a toll on communities up and down the river corridor, costing an estimated $6.2 billion in losses.
These events remind us of the need to better prepare for extreme events, and of why NIDIS and our partners must continue to advance the science and deliver accurate, earlier warnings of drought to mitigate its devastating impacts.
Recognizing these critical issues, Congress passed the NIDIS Reauthorization Act in 2018 and the bill was signed into law in January 2019, kicking off a banner year for the program and setting an ambitious agenda for the future. The law reauthorizes NIDIS through FY2023 and calls upon us to engage with the private sector to improve drought monitoring, forecasting, and communication; to utilize monitoring by citizen scientists; to support improvements in seasonal and subseasonal forecasting; to disseminate information products that show watershed differences in drought conditions; and to develop a strategy for a national coordinated soil moisture monitoring network.
We acted quickly on this mandate and infusion of support from Congress. The National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network Executive Committee, formed in 2018, was charged with identifying a roadmap forward and the resources needed for implementing a network that will provide coordinated, high-quality, nationwide soil moisture information. In July, NIDIS co-hosted the second National Drought Forum, convening high-level decision makers to review progress made in responding to drought, to promote partnerships with U.S. businesses around drought, and to determine priority actions around drought early warning and long-term resilience issues.
These and many other achievements made for a year filled with advances in drought information delivery, research, and partnership-building, all of which I hope you enjoy learning more about in this report. We have lofty goals and a big agenda set for the year ahead, and we remain thankful to our network of partners across the country who are so vital to the realization of NIDIS’s mission.