Weather Effects

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Are drought indices and climate data good indicators of ecologically relevant soil moisture dynamics in drylands?

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In this study, we tested components of climatic water balance, including standardized precipitation-evapotranspiration index (SPEI) and SPEI computation lengths, to recreate multi-decadal and periodic soil-moisture patterns across soil profiles at 866 sites in the western United States. Modeling results show that SPEI calculated over the prior 12-months was the most predictive computation length and could recreate changes in moisture availability within the soil profile over longer periods of time and for annual recharge of deeper soil moisture stores. SPEI was slightly less successful with recreating spring surface-soil moisture availability, which is key to dryland ecosystems dominated by winter precipitation. Meteorological drought indices like SPEI are intended to be convenient and generalized indicators of meteorological water deficit. However, the inconsistent ability of SPEI to recreate ecologically relevant patterns of soil moisture at regional scales suggests that process-based models, and the larger data requirements they involve, remain an important tool for dryland ecohydrology.

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Weather explains differences in sagebrush-obligate songbird nest success under various grazing regimes

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Sagebrush Sparrow daily nest survival decreased in hotter and drier weather. Brewer’s Sparrow nest survival was resilient to most weather. Vegetation was influenced by grazing but did not decrease nest survival. Weather influenced sparrow nest survival more than grazing regime.

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Ecological Drought Forecast Tool for Drylands

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With a project location, the tool provides historic information and forecasts for temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture. To do this, the tool integrates soils data from National Soil Conservation Service (NRCS), seasonal weather forecasts from the National Weather Service, an ecosystem water balance model, and statistical models of plant establishment developed through ecological research. The outputs are forecasts and historical conditions for a specific site selected by the user.

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Practical applications of soil moisture information

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The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Weather Service (NWS) are pleased to host two webinars on soil moisture data and applications. The webinars are intended to help NWS operational forecasters, and other weather and climate service providers, to better understand soil moisture monitoring and its practical applications. This second webinar in the series will include the following presentations on the use of soil moisture to inform drought monitoring and decision making:
“Using Soil Moisture to Develop the U.S. Drought Monitor Map” – Richard Heim NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
“How Soil Moisture Informs the U.S. Drought Outlooks” – Brad Pugh, NOAA Climate Prediction Center
“Using Soil Moisture for State-Level Drought Monitoring” – Laura Edwards, South Dakota State Climatologist
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Soil moisture 101: What it means, how it’s measured

Webinar recording.

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Weather Service (NWS) are pleased to host two webinars on soil moisture data and applications. The webinars are intended to help NWS operational forecasters, and other weather and climate service providers, to better understand soil moisture monitoring and its practical applications.

This first webinar will provide an overview of soil moisture monitoring and interpretation. It will include a series of brief recorded presentations, followed by live Q&A with the presenters:

“Overview of Soil Moisture Monitoring” – Mike Cosh, USDA Agricultural Research Service
“In situ Soil Moisture Data and Products” – Chris Fiebrich, Oklahoma Mesonet
“Satellite-based Remote Sensing of Soil Moisture” – John Bolten, NASA Goddard
“Model-output Soil Moisture Data and Products” – Marina Skumanich, NIDIS

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Western Governors’ Association Annual Meeting

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The two-day event, hosted by Idaho Governor and WGA Chair Brad Little, will feature the Western Governors and their specials guests in public conversations about western drought, cross-boundary land management, cybersecurity, clean energy, broadband deployment and telehealth expansion. The in-person gathering at The Coeur d’Alene Resort will comply with state and local requirements on issues such as meeting size limitations, mask usage and social distancing.

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CA-NV Winter Status Update Webinar (Jan 2022)

Webinar recording.

According to the January 18 U.S. Drought Monitor, 99.6% of CA/NV is in drought, with 9.8% in Extreme (D3) or Exceptional (D4) Drought. The area in D3/D4 is down from 69.9% just one month ago, reflecting the barrage of storms that have brought rain and snow to the region since mid-fall. These storms have improved conditions but have not ended the drought. The current drought developed over many months to years and left huge water deficits.

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Assessing the role of short-term weather forecasts in fire manager tactical decision-making

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Respondents were less confident in the accuracy of wind and precipitation forecasts than relative humidity or weather forecasts more generally. The influence of weather information on the decision depended on the framing used in the choice experiment; specifically, whether respondents were told the initial strategy had been to directly or indirectly attack the fire. Across conditions, fire managers generally preferred to indirectly attack the fire. Decisions about the tactics to apply going forward were more sensitive to time in season when the fire was occurring and wind and precipitation forecasts than to other attributes.

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Disturbance and sustainability in forests of the western US

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This report assesses recent forest disturbance in the Western United States and discusses implications for sustainability. Individual chapters focus on fire, drought, insects, disease, invasive plants, and socioeconomic impacts. Disturbance data came from a variety of sources, including the Forest Inventory and Analysis program, Forest Health Protection, and the National Interagency Fire Center. Disturbance trends with the potential to affect forest sustainability include alterations in fire regimes, periods of drought in some parts of the region, and increases in invasive plants, insects, and disease. Climate affects most disturbance processes, particularly drought, fire, and biotic disturbances, and climate change is expected to continue to affect disturbance processes in various ways and degrees.

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Episodic occurrence of favorable weather constrains recovery of a cold desert shrubland after fire

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This study demonstrates the importance of episodic periods of favorable weather for long-term plant population recovery following disturbance. Management strategies that increase opportunities for seed availability to coincide with favorable weather conditions, such as retaining unburned patches or repeated seeding treatments, can improve restoration outcomes in high-priority areas.

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