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Drought in the Intermountain West: A Workshop on Drought Recovery Tools and Perspectives

Sep 24
September 24, 2019
8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Boulder, CO

Over 30 participants from a dozen different organizations gathered at the Sustainable Energy and Environment Community building on Tuesday, September 24 for the NOAA National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) workshop on Drought Recovery in Colorado. The day was broken up into three sessions, which included a mixture of oral presentations and facilitated discussions in breakout groups. Four sector-based breakout groups were identified, 1) Federal Government,  2) State and Local Government,  3) Public Utilities and Private Business, and 4) Education/Academia.

The morning session was devoted to navigating and discussing the NCEI drought amelioration web tool . Each breakout group was tasked with assessing the tools ease of use, layout, navigability, and whether the information in the tool was accessible and understandable.

Summary of outcomes:

  •  Tool is approachable to most users;
  •  Enough information is included that shows “how we know” this information;
  • Water utilities see using the tool primarily to help communicate to customers, managers, and leaders but could possibly be used for water resources planning too;
  • The gridded data is a welcome change especially for places like Colorado with large climate divisions;
  • The tool is likely to be the most useful in long-term multi-year droughts like the California 2012-2015 drought

Top 3 change requests:

  1.  Add key terms and implement a feature called “tool tips”
  2. Put current drought in historical context (i.e., use analog years)
  3. Coordinate live webinars in regions during active drought periods

Other requested changes included adding new boundaries, such as watersheds and tribal lands. Participants also requested a more customizable color scale for the legend and data and identified some layout and navigability issues that don’t always interact with the main page. Naming conventions (such as changing “data opacity” to “map opacity”) were identified in several areas for improved readability.

The afternoon sessions were devoted to discussing other drought tools including the Evaporative Demand Drought Index and several paleoclimatology drought tools, such as tree burn scars and statistical probabilities of recovering from drought based on paleoclimatic records. After a snack break, the focus turned to presentations from stakeholders and decision-makers to evaluate how they are using drought tools to inform decision-making in their jobs. Participants heard from an Emergency Manager about how an emergency drought response is slower and less immediately actionable than a train derailment, for example. The State Climate Office followed with two presentations about their drought products and services and how drought condition reports are being used to inform the weekly drought monitor. Finally, the session ended with a review of the drought plans for Colorado and how the tools showcased and discussed during this workshop may be able to inform different phases of the response team.


For more information, please contact Michael Kruk, NOAA ( or Elizabeth Weight, NIDIS (