Improvements to the Drought Monitor
Aug 29, 2017
Steve Tillman in Parkville, Missouri, offers some very helpful comments on our use of drought maps. His articulate analysis is worth reading in whole, so you will find it appended to my remarks on our website.
"I believe that your use of the U.S. Drought Monitor doesn't serve your viewers & customers very well, by not reporting on topsoil moisture conditions and deficits. In my opinion, the Drought Monitor response too slowly, providing little useful information on the intensity of a drought."
As I said be sure to read his whole email, but here is a quick response. First, you are right. Your suggested maps do present a more real-time picture of drought conditions. I shared your remarks with Mike Hoffman, and he is investigating using additional soil-moisture graphics to supplement our coverage.
One such which I liked, map is here - the additional rain needed to restore soil moisture to normal. Published weekly, it illustrates a different aspect of drought conditions, and may be more helpful for producers and others in ag related industries. He also finds the short-term drought blend map helpful.
My experience as a grower with drought leads me to rank crop and soil condition maps second to forecast maps. Farmers usually have a pretty good idea how bad their crops are suffering, although such maps would help us to estimate the extent, and might help our market plan.
What we fixate on are chances for relief, more than better descriptions of the problem.
Mike is looking into alternatives like these, but I would add this note of caution. Agriculture is used to the usual drought map, and familiar graphics can crowd out superior methods of communicating. The way we've always done it has a powerful allure that is hard to educate past.
Visit our website and see what you think of Steve's suggestions. Mike and I would appreciate more feedback on this idea.