United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

United States of America

Good morning. Drought not only affects more people in the U.S. than any other natural hazard, but is one of the most costly problems we face. Each year the United States incurs direct drought-related losses averaging between six and eight billion dollars. There are warnings that the potential frequency, intensity, and consequences of droughts are going to worsen as a result of changes in drought climatology, population increases, and other factors such as health crises, conflict, and unsustainable use of natural resources (especially water) which all serve to magnify droughts? impacts.
The United States recognizes that any efforts to reduce the impacts of drought require an integrated and coherent approach to improve our provision of reliable and timely forecasts and information that people can use to make decisions. U.S. actions, both domestically and internationally, have therefore focused on the importance of providing accurate, timely and integrated information on drought conditions at the relevant spatial scale to facilitate proactive decisions aimed at minimizing the economic, social and ecosystem losses associated with drought.
In 1998, the United States instituted a national drought policy that acknowledged the need to prepare for and lessen the severe impacts of drought on the American people and the environment. In 2006, the U.S. established the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), a program designed to boost national drought preparedness by creating reliable and timely drought forecasts and assessments to assist decision makers prepare for anticipated droughts. Through NIDIS, the United States is creating a domestic drought early warning system that will tie existing operational programs into an interactive delivery system for drought information and will provide a framework for interacting with and educating those affected by drought using a web portal environment. The NIDIS Drought Portal (www.drought.gov) is already providing access to drought monitoring, forecasting, research, planning, and education information by integrating information across agencies from the federal to state and local levels.
The United States has several active programs to extend our collective capability to understand and predict drought and its related impacts. Principal among these effort are FEWSNET, SERVIR, and the North American Drought Monitor. Additionally, the United States is collaborating with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) to establish a global drought index.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is a USAID-centrally funded activity that collaborates with international, national, and regional partners to provide timely and rigorous early warning and vulnerability information on emerging or evolving food security issues so that key decision makers have ample time to prepare and take preventive action.
Operating in Africa, Central America and Afghanistan, FEWS NET is an important tool to advance disaster readiness for the Humanitarian Assistance and can guide Economic Growth interventions, particularly in Agriculture. FEWS NET has interagency agreements with USGS, NASA, NOAA and USDA that provide information to the U.S. government, local governments and a variety of other regional and international partners to assist in averting famine. www.fews.net
SERVIR is a web-based system (www.servir.net) that provides earth observation data; decision-support tools for interpreting the data; online mapping; and a three-dimensional, interactive visualization of the earth (known as SERVIR-Viz).
SERVIR?s decision support tools address issues related to climate change, biodiversity, disasters, ecosystems, health, water, and weather. Based in Panama at the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC), SERVIR serves all seven countries of Central America and southern Mexico. The system is being used to monitor the weather, forest fires, and ecological changes, as well as respond to severe events such as red tides, tropical storms, and flooding.
In parallel to efforts to establish the U.S. drought monitor, the United States, Mexico and Canada are working together to establish a North American Drought Monitor (NADM). The centerpiece of the NADM is a group of drought experts and database specialists from across the continent working together in an ongoing operational capacity to carefully compile and analyze disparate climate observations at multiple scales. Processes have been established to facilitate the open exchange of data and information across borders, and the transfer of scientific expertise and data management principles between countries is a key element to building the capacity to monitor drought conditions on an ongoing basis across the continent.
While this effort was successful in improving the delivery of drought information to end users, it also established a precedent for how nations, when working together, can turn disparate observing systems and limited individual resources into an integrated program to enhance decision making.
To enhance the integration of observations and improve information products specific to societal needs, the recent Earth Observations Summit, held in Cape Town, South Africa, called for renewed efforts among GEO members to determine the requirements to launch a global cooperative effort to develop a drought early warning system capability. As we meet here, our drought experts are working with their counterparts to convene a workshop to address this important issue. This effort is just beginning, and shows great promise.
Thank you.