America’s Parched Plains: Monitoring Drought in the Great Plains Region

Team Location: Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

Terra MODIS surface reflectance 8-day composite of the Great Plains for March 6-13, 2012. The image is overlaid on an ArcGIS basemap. Image Credit: Great Plains Agriculture Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program

Terra MODIS surface reflectance 8-day composite of the Great Plains for March 6-13, 2012. The image is overlaid on an ArcGIS basemap. Image Credit: Great Plains Agriculture Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program



Authors:
Tiffani Orne (Liberty University), Project Lead
Eric Dombrowsky (Christopher Newport University)
Emily Gotschalk (Christopher Newport University)

Mentors/Advisers:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA, DEVELOP National Science Adviser)

Past/Other Contributors:
DEVELOP 2013 Great Plains Agriculture Team
Langley Research Center (Lance Watkins, Jerrod Lessel and Alexandra Perillo)

Abstract:
Drought in the Great Plains region of the U.S. is a matter of constant concern for ranchers and land managers in the region. All ranchers must respond to dry periods and approximately 80 percent of ranchers actively prepare for extreme conditions. Since 2011, the Great Plains region has been severely impacted by drought, including $400 million in losses in Oklahoma alone. Most counties in Wyoming and Colorado currently qualify for federal drought assistance. Organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently use sources such as the Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI) and the U.S. Drought Monitor to track drought severity; however, both tools are too coarse spatially for individual rangeland managers to properly employ. This project utilized data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua and Terra satellites and Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). The purpose of the project was to apply the Drought Severity Index (DSI), created in a previous DEVELOP term, to the entire Great Plains region using NASA Earth observations. This project compared the results of the DSI with other indices – VegDRI and the U.S. Drought Monitor – as well as with the Aqua Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (Earth Observing Systems) (AMSR-E) soil moisture product. The methods and results generated by this project were provided to the USDA Agricultural Research Services Rangeland Resources Research Unit (ARS RRRU) for future use in regional drought monitoring.



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