2022 journal article
Demystifying Drought Strategies to Enhance the Communication of a Complex Hazard
BULLETIN OF THE AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY, 103(1), E181–E197.
Abstract Drought is a complex phenomenon that is difficult to characterize and monitor. Accurate and timely communication is necessary to ensure that affected sectors and the public can respond and manage associated risks and impacts. To that end, myriad drought indicators, indices, and other tools have been developed and made available, but understanding and using this information can be a challenge for end users who are unfamiliar with the information or presentation or for decision-makers with expertise in areas outside of climate and drought. This article highlights a project that aimed to improve the usability and dissemination of drought information for North Carolina (NC) audiences by addressing specific needs for a better understanding of how drought is monitored, the climatic and environmental conditions that can cause or worsen drought, and the impacts occurring in NC’s different sectors and subregions. Conducted to support NC’s official, statewide drought monitoring process, the project’s methods and results have utility for other geographies and contexts. The project team designed an iterative process to engage users in the development, evaluation, refinement, and distribution of new resources. Featured products include the Weekly Drought Update infographic, which explains the factors used to determine NC’s drought status, and the Short-Range Outlook infographic, a synthesis of National Weather Service forecasts. Effective strategies included using stakeholders’ preferred and existing channels to disseminate products, emphasizing impacts relevant to different user groups (such as agriculture, forestry, and water resources) rather than indices, and employing concise narratives and visualizations to translate technical and scientific information.