Kentucky Climate Center receives grant to develop Drought Early Warning System

The Kentucky Climate Center at WKU has received a two-year, $200,000 grant from NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System to develop the Kentucky Drought Early Warning System.

“For Kentucky, water is an increasingly valuable resource,” said Dr. Stuart Foster, state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Climate Center. “Kentucky typically has an abundant quantity of water, but projections of a changing climate over the coming decades suggest that our region on average will become wetter in the winter and spring with drier conditions in the summer and fall. When combined with higher summertime temperatures, we are likely to become more vulnerable to drought, making the management of our state’s water resources even more important than it is today.”

The Kentucky Climate Center, in partnership with NIDIS, the National Drought Mitigation Center and the Kentucky Division of Water, will host a kickoff meeting Sept. 6 in Frankfort.

“This project will strengthen the Kentucky Climate Center’s position as a provider of climate services across the Commonwealth and will build a stronger network among the agencies involved in drought monitoring and end-users in drought-sensitive sectors,” Dr. Foster said.

Improved monitoring, analysis and communication can provide early indication of developing drought conditions, enabling managers in water-sensitive sectors to be proactive as the threat of a water shortage grows.

The kickoff meeting at the Division of Water office will introduce the project and gather information “that will help us define the requirements for the products and services we will be developing,” Dr. Foster said.

The project to develop the Kentucky Drought Early Warning System has four components:

  • Soil Monitoring: Soil moisture and temperature probes will be installed at an additional 10 sites in the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU network.
  • Data Visualization and Analysis: A web-based data dashboard will be developed “that will enable users to assess changing climatic and hydrological conditions using data from the Kentucky Mesonet combined with data on stream flows, reservoir levels and reported drought impacts from across Kentucky,” he said.
  • Targeted Engagement with Managers and Responders: A webinar series will be developed “to provide regular updates on hydrologic conditions, including impacts and outlooks regarding drought,” Dr. Foster said.
  • Public Messaging via Information Graphics: “We will be developing information graphics to better communicate drought conditions to the general public,” he said.

Kentucky’s most recent extreme drought occurred in 2012, but significant droughts occurred in 1999-2000 and 2007. And, a late fall drought in 2016 caused wildfires in parts of the state.

“Drought happens periodically and is simply a part of our climate,” Dr. Foster said. “We want to track those situations with local detail as well as possible and provide information and analysis tools to help people in different sectors manage effectively in the face of drought or extreme precipitation events.”

For information about the project or the Sept. 6 kickoff meeting, contact Dr. Foster at (270) 745-5983 or email stuart.foster@wku.edu.

Contact: Dr. Stuart Foster, (270) 745-5983

Posted with permission from WKU News

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