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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.

2020 Flash Drought Workshop: Definitions, Impacts, and Research Needs

More research is needed to better define flash drought, fully capture flash drought impacts, and determine research needs. On December 1-3, 2020, NIDIS hosted a virtual Flash Drought Workshop 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. Key outcomes of the workshop and priority actions going forward are documented in the workshop report. Presentation recordings, meeting materials, and a flash drought literature review are also available on the workshop page.

Causes of Flash Drought

Predicting Flash Drought

Flash Drought Impacts

Resources

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