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Willeke completes National Drought Atlas

The National Drought Atlas, a source of information about the frequency, severity and duration of drought as reflected by precipitation depths and streamflows, has been completed.

Gene Willeke (Institute of Environmental Sciences) is initiator and principal editor of the atlas, a joint effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Climatic Data Center and IBM Watson Center.

"The atlas is the most comprehensive analysis of low precipitation, streamflow and the Palmer Drought Index yet compiled," Willeke says.

Because the information needed for decisions regarding drought includes all parts of the frequency distribution, the atlas can also serve as a guide to information about long-duration wet periods.

Maps, graphs and tables provide frequency analysis of precipitation for durations of one month through five years. The atlas, which provides planners with a reliable base of information for risk assessment, uses monthly precipitation totals from 1,119 sites in the National Climatic Data Center’s Historical Climatology Network.

"The analyses exhibited remarkable consistencies across the country," Willeke says. "It also conclusively showed the superiority of the median as the measure of central tendency, especially for the shorter durations."

The idea for the atlas was inspired by the severe droughts that plagued parts of the country from 1987 to 1989, catching most water managers off-guard by the drought’s severity and duration, according to the American Geophysical Union.

Date Published: 11/08/2001
Volume: 21   Number: 15

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