November 15, 2023

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Mapping the World's

Vanishing Aquifers

In parts of the US, the ground is sinking under our feet—and taking groundwater storage with it.

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When heat and lack of rain dry up surface water, groundwater can serve as an important water source for communities, farms, and ecosystems. But globally, we’re losing our ability to store water in underground aquifers at a rate of 17 cubic kilometers per year (a volume equivalent to roughly 7,000 Great Pyramids of Giza), according to a recent study.

Groundwater pumping can cause the ground surface to sink as water is removed from the aquifer, compressing the aquifer like pressing water out of a sponge. Researchers used existing studies and climate and land use data to build a model to predict land subsidence and aquifer collapse globally. Modeling this loss is particularly valuable in areas where there is limited groundwater monitoring. They found that the US, China, and Iran account for most of the global groundwater storage loss, with the greatest subsidence in the US occurring in California’s Central Valley. About 75% of this subsidence occurred over cropland and urban areas. Losing this groundwater storage permanently reduces the amount of water that can be captured and stored in aquifers.

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News & Updates

Drought, Heat Drive Record-Breaking Fire Season in Louisiana

Drought in the Lower Mississippi River basin has driven record-low water levels on the Mississippi River and a record-breaking wildfire season in Louisiana. Louisiana has lost 53,883 acres of forest to wildfires this year. The Louisiana State University AgCenter estimates a loss of at least $71 million in timber, the state’s greatest agricultural commodity. This number is expected to grow as wildfires continue to burn across the state. Fires in August, September, and October broke records, burning a total of 62,000 acres as of the end of October. The largest wildfire in state history, the Tiger Island Fire, burned 31,000 acres in central Louisiana, an area where logging companies, sawmills, and other forestry businesses are major employers. That fire alone burned more acres in 2023 than all acres burned annually statewide in 2013-2022. Learn more about drought and heat in the region by reading a recap or watching a recording of a webinar NIDIS co-hosted: Impacts and Perspectives on the 2023 Southern U.S. Drought and Heat. Learn more >

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It's Official: We're in a Strong El Niño

This winter's El Niño has met the threshold for a “strong” event. The strength of an El Niño event matters because the stronger the event, the more likely that we’ll see the characteristic changes in temperature, rain and snow, and other impacts it brings. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the impacts themselves will be stronger, but it makes the expected El Niño impacts more likely to happen. During winter, this leads to wetter conditions than usual in the Southern U.S. and warmer and drier conditions in the North. Forecasters expect El Niño to continue for the next several months. Learn more >

Socially Vulnerable Residents at Higher Risk for West Coast Wildfire

On the West Coast, people who are more socially vulnerable face a disproportionately higher risk of being exposed to a wildfire, and the number of people who are socially vulnerable and exposed to wildfire is increasing as wildfire risk increases. According to a recent study, in Washington and Oregon, about 40% of people who lived within the perimeter of a wildfire between 2000-2021 were highly vulnerable, mostly rural residents. Fewer Californians exposed to wildfires–about 8%–were highly vulnerable, and they mostly lived in urban areas. Learn more >


ForDRI: A New Tool to Monitor Drought in Forests

The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) recently released a new, experimental tool to monitor drought in forest ecosystems across the United States: ForDRI, the Forest Drought Response Index. Co-developed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ForDRI combines several data types, weighing each variable based on historical data and how the variables change together over time. Learn more >

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NIDIS Drought Alert Emails: Get Local Drought Conditions and Outlooks in Your Inbox

Get automated email alerts from NIDIS when U.S. Drought Monitor conditions change for your location, or when NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center releases a new drought outlook, predicting whether drought will remain, develop, improve, or be removed. Sign up here >

NIDIS Is Hiring!

NIDIS is hiring two regional drought information coordinators to support the NIDIS program and regional efforts to improve drought early warning, including drought monitoring, forecasting, and planning and preparedness. These positions are supported through partnerships with two of NOAA’s Cooperative Institutes.

Tuscaloosa, AL job posting >

Boulder, CO job posting >


Events & Webinars

November 16, 2023 - 1 p.m. CT

North Central U.S. Climate & Drought Summary & Outlook Webinar

November 27, 2023 - 11 a.m. PT

California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar

November 28, 2023 - 10 a.m. ET

Southeast Climate Monthly Webinar

Current Drought

Conditions >

Drought Early Warning >

State Drought Information >

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was authorized by Congress in 2006 (Public Law 109-430) with an interagency mandate to develop and provide a national drought early warning information system, by coordinating and integrating drought research, and building upon existing federal, tribal, state, and local partnerships.