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Drought Monitor Adds U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands

USDM adds drought information about USAPI to its weekly map

Picture of U.S. Drought Monitor and U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands
Courtesy of USDM

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is a weekly assessment of drought conditions in the contiguous United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. Published each Thursday for the past 20 years, the USDM recently added the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) to the summary and maps.

The USAPI consist of three U.S. territories: Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and three independent countries: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

The USAPI are scattered across the Pacific Ocean in an area that is as wide east to west as the contiguous United States. Although the USAPI generally have a wet tropical climate, the islands are subject to drought, especially during periods of El Niño. Drought can lead to crop damage, wildfires, municipal water shortages (especially for household water catchments), and low stream outputs where streams exist, according to Richard Heim, an NCEI meteorologist and one of the authors of the USDM.

With the addition of these islands to the USDM, the overall picture of U.S.-related drought becomes more complete, assisting with ongoing monitoring of climate conditions and the effects of changes in climate. This also makes these U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands eligible to receive drought relief funds from the USDA. The USDM also operates as a drought early-warning system.

Begun in 1999, the Drought Monitor is a collaborative effort of several organizations under the umbrella of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Working partners include the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and NOAA NCEI, Climate Prediction Center, and Western Regional Climate Center.

Following on the heels of the USDM, in 2002 the North American Drought Monitor (NADM) was initiated. The NADM encompasses the United States, Canada, and Mexico, is issued monthly, and is a collaborative effort by agencies in the three countries.