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What is Drought

Flash Drought

Flash drought intensifies rapidly due to changes in precipitation, temperature, wind, and radiation. These changes in the weather increase evapotranspiration and lower soil moisture. Flash droughts can cause extensive damage to agriculture, economies, and ecosystems if they are not predicted and discovered early.

What Is Flash Drought?

Flash drought is simply the rapid onset or intensification of drought. It is set in motion by lower-than-normal rates of precipitation, accompanied by abnormally high temperatures, winds, and radiation. Together, these changes in weather can rapidly alter the local climate.

Higher temperature increases evapotranspiration—the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and by transpiration from plants—and further lowers soil moisture, which decreases rapidly as drought conditions continue.

If not predicted and discovered early enough, changes in soil moisture that accompany flash drought can cause extensive damage to agriculture, economies, and ecosystem goods and services.

NIDIS Flash Drought Workshops: Definitions, Impacts, and Research Needs

More research is needed to better define flash drought, fully capture flash drought impacts, and determine research and applications priorities. Since 2020, NIDIS has hosted two international Flash Drought Workshops, in 2020 and 2023, to examine flash drought definitions and to coordinate and co-develop a research pathway to address the management and response challenges associated with flash drought. Read the 2nd National Flash Drought Workshop Report: Building on Progress and Looking Forward.

Or, view additional resources developed from these workshops: 

Causes of Flash Drought

Predicting Flash Drought

Flash Drought Impacts


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