Drought Impact Reporter Help
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Impacts and Reports
All information comes into the Drought Impact Reporter as a report. Some reports contain information that meets our definition of a drought impact:
An observable loss or change that occurred at a specific place and time because of drought.
All impacts are made from one or more reports.
Types of Reports
We incorporate reports from many sources, so our database is set up to accommodate
several different types of reports. Each report type has an icon to make it more
visually distinct. The legend allows users to choose whether they wish to see reports
from all sources, or only from selected sources. The report type icons below the
map show which report types were included in the search.
We use a daily electronic media search – the equivalent of what used to be called
a clipping service – to scan thousands of U.S. media outlets for drought-related
news stories. Our moderator logs the relevant clippings as media reports. Because
of the sheer volume of news stories and the dedicated effort
of the moderator, most reports in the Drought Impact Reporter are from media. The
NDMC stores but does not publish the full text of media reports, in order to comply
with copyright law.
Anyone can submit a user report. You can get to the Submit a Report form via the
main navigation bar above the map. More detailed instructions are available on the
form. Note that user reports are moderated, so it may take a business day or two
for them to show up.
Although the form allows users to submit a link to more information such as a news
story, we especially value original observations or information. We have a separate
process for media reports.
If you are reporting on your own experience of drought, it is OK to write in first-person
– to say “I,” “me” and “us.”
Here is an example of a user report with impact information:
Other reports contain valuable information that may indicate that an impact will
occur soon.These reports are visible on the reports layer of the map, but
not on the impacts layer.
Here is an example of a report with useful information about drought conditions
that doesn’t meet our definition of an impact, because the impact hasn’t
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network
now provides an option for observers to submit drought impact reports. CoCoRaHS
reports appear on the reports layer, and, like other reports, they can be made into
impacts by our moderators.
CoCoRaHS is a nationwide network of thousands of volunteer citizen scientists who
submit regular measurements and observations of rain, hail, snow and drought for
National Weather Service Drought Information Statements
When an area is in Severe Drought (D2) or worse on the U.S. Drought Monitor, the
Weather Forecast Office for that area issues a Drought Information Statement, detailing
conditions and impacts. We manually archive those reports and scan them for impacts.
Some states gather information on burn bans and make it publicly available. DIR
moderators incorporate that information into the DIR as time permits, especially
when burn bans are known to be because of drought.
Some states gather information on water restrictions and make it publicly available.
Moderators incorporate that information into the DIR as time permits, especially
when restrictions are known to be because of drought.
Other Agency Reports
Some states issue regular reports during times of drought and make them publicly
available. Our moderators add them to the DIR as reports and scan them for impact
Drought observers in Hawaii have a special report form that creates a Hawaii Report, similar to a user report, but with five agricultural subcategories.
Impacts that we imported from our original database do not have associated reports.
We call these “legacy impacts.” For counting purposes, we assume that
there is a legacy report type. In reality, legacy reports are non-existent.
Some reports contain information that meet our definition of a drought impact:
An observable loss or change that occurred at a specific place and time because of drought.
All impacts are made from one or more reports.
Here is an example of an impact and an associated report:
The blue highlighting means that the impact or report can be expanded to show more detail.
Accessing Report and Impact Detail
There are three ways to access details of impacts and reports:
- Drilling down through the map.
- Choosing options on the legend to the right of the map and clicking Refresh.
- Using the text-based Advanced Search feature.
Using the Map
The default view of the map shows all impacts recorded in the past 30 days for all
states, all categories, and all report types. Summary statistics appear below the
map on the Impact Counts and Report Counts tabs. Use the Impacts List and Reports
List tabs to see narrative and other details.
Use the compass arrows in the top left corner of the map to move the map view north, south, east or west.
Use the plus sign to zoom in, the minus sign to zoom out, and the world icon to go to the most remote view.
Click on Map in the navigation bar to get back to the default view.
If you click on a state, a popup box appears with summary statistics for that state.
The Impacts List button at the bottom of the box brings up another window with a
paginated list of impacts. Click and drag the lower right corner of the box to change
its size. Click on the titles of the impacts to see more detail. When the all-states
or a statewide view is selected, statewide impacts are listed first, from most recent
to older. Impacts that affect one or more (but not all) counties in a state are
Click on the County View button at the bottom of the state impacts popup box to
zoom to a view of the state with county boundaries. The summary information below
the map switches to state information.
Click on a county to see summary statistics for that county.
Use the Impacts List button to view details in a separate window. When a county
view is selected, county-level impacts appear first, from most recent to older,
followed by statewide impacts.
Use the All-States View button in the popup window below the summary statistics
to return to the original map view of the whole United States.
Using the Legend
The legend allows you to turn the impacts and reports layers on and off, and to
refine your search by time, place, impact category, and report types. The Overlays
tab displays other useful boundaries.
Use the triangles to the left of the legend headings to open and close each part of the legend.
Layers that are turned on and off with checkboxes refresh immediately. The options
that let you select a time period, state or county, one or more categories and one
or more report types aren’t applied until you click the Refresh button
at the top of the legend.
Use the opacity slider to make layers more transparent or more opaque.
Caution: Some options don’t work well together. For example, mapping reports
by affected area covers up the impacts.
Use the opacity slider to make layers more transparent or more opaque.
Impacts and Reports Layers
Impacts and Reports each have their own layer on the Drought Impact
Reporter map. You can turn the layers on and off by using the checkboxes.
Impacts are mapped by the affected area, down to county level.
Reports can be mapped by either point of origin or affected area. Points
are mapped to cities or to county centroids. Mapping by source location (points)
is the default option for reports. The points (circles) on the map are sized to
show the relative number of reports from a given location, not the population size
of the city, although more information tends to come from population centers, state
capitals and university towns. Clicking on a point displays the reports originating there.
Here is what Oklahoma looks like, displaying both impacts and reports for a 30-day
interval. The largest circle represents Norman, where the university community includes
many avid drought observers.
The default time window is the last 30 days. Open the time window selector on the
legend to choose a different interval. After you choose a new interval of time,
click the Refresh button at the top of the legend to apply your choice.
Choosing Custom brings up windows for start and end dates and a calendar
to select dates. The search will return information on any impact that occurs at
least partially within the specified window. For reports, if no specific start or
end date is given, the search uses the publication date instead.
If you customize the date, choose the year first.
To select a date in the distant past, select the earliest year visible on the dropdown list. Repeat until you are able to select the desired year. Each time you select a year, that year becomes the midpoint of the dropdown list.
Be sure to click on a specific date.
Open the Location selector on the legend to choose a state. Click refresh in order to apply your choice and zoom to the state.
The display below the map will change to show counts and details for impacts and
reports for that state. Clicking on a county brings up details for that county in
a popup box, along with buttons that bring up impact details or return you to the
We categorize drought impacts and reports based on what sectors are involved. A
report or an impact can have more than one category. The Category bar on the legend
allows users to narrow their search to one or more categories. The colored icons
below the map change to reflect which categories were included in the search.
Drought effects associated with agriculture, farming, aquaculture, horticulture,
forestry or ranching. Examples of drought-induced agricultural impacts include damage
to crop quality; income loss for farmers due to reduced crop yields; reduced productivity
of cropland; insect infestation; plant disease; increased irrigation costs; cost
of new or supplemental water resource development (wells, dams, pipelines) for agriculture;
reduced productivity of rangeland; forced reduction of foundation stock; closure/limitation
of public lands to grazing; high cost or unavailability of water for livestock,
Christmas tree farms, forestry, raising domesticated horses, bees, fish, shellfish,
Business & Industry
This category tracks drought's effects on non-agriculture and non-tourism
businesses, such as lawn care, recreational vehicles or gear dealers, and plant
nurseries. Typical impacts include reduction or loss of demand for goods or
services, reduction in employment, variation in number of calls for service,
late opening or early closure for the season, bankruptcy, permanent store
closure, and other economic impacts.
This category concerns drought's effects on power production, rates and revenue.
Examples include production changes for both hydropower and non-hydropower
providers, changes in electricity rates, revenue shortfalls and/or windfall
profits, and purchase of electricity when hydropower generation is down.
Drought often contributes to forest, range, rural, or urban fires, fire danger,
and burning restrictions. Specific impacts include enacting or easing burning
restrictions, fireworks bans, increased fire risk, occurrence of fire (number of
acres burned, number of wildfires compared to average, people displaced, etc.),
state of emergency during periods of high fire danger, closure of roads or land
due to fire occurrence or risk, and expenses to state and county governments of
paying firefighters overtime and paying equipment (helicopter) costs.
Plants & Wildlife
Drought effects associated with unmanaged plants and wildlife, both aquatic and
terrestrial, include loss of biodiversity of plants or wildlife; loss of trees
from rural or urban landscapes, shelterbelts, or wooded conservation areas;
reduction and degradation of fish and wildlife habitat; lack of feed and
drinking water; greater mortality due to increased contact with agricultural
producers, as animals seek food from farms and producers are less tolerant of
the intrusion; disease; increased vulnerability to predation (from species
concentrated near water); migration and concentration (loss of wildlife in some
areas and too much wildlife in others); increased stress on endangered species;
salinity levels affecting wildlife; wildlife encroaching into urban areas; and
loss of wetlands.
Relief, Response & Restrictions
This category refers to drought effects associated with disaster declarations,
aid programs, requests for disaster declaration or aid, water restrictions, or
fire restrictions. Examples include disaster declarations, aid programs, USDA
Secretarial disaster declarations, Small Business Association disaster
declarations, government relief and response programs, state-level water
shortage or water emergency declarations, county-level declarations, a declared
"state of emergency," requests for declarations or aid, non-profit
organization-based relief, water restrictions, fire restrictions, National
Weather Service Red Flag warnings, and declaration of drought watches or
Society & Public Health
Drought effects associated with human, public and social health include
health-related problems related to reduced water quantity and/or quality, such
as increased concentration of contaminants; loss of human life (e.g., from heat
stress, suicide); increased respiratory ailments; increased disease caused by
wildlife concentrations; increased human disease caused by changes in insect
carrier populations; population migration (rural to urban areas, migrants into
the United States); loss of aesthetic values; change in daily activities
(non-recreational, like putting a bucket in the shower to catch water); elevated
stress levels; meetings to discuss drought; communities creating drought plans;
lawmakers altering penalties for violation of water restrictions; demand for
higher water rates; cultural/historical discoveries from low water levels;
prayer meetings; cancellation of fundraising events; cancellation/alteration of
festivals or holiday traditions; stockpiling water; public service announcements
and drought information websites; protests; and conflicts within the community
due to competition for water.
Tourism & Recreation
Drought effects associated with recreational activities and tourism include
closure of state hiking trails and hunting areas due to fire danger; water
access or navigation problems for recreation; bans on recreational activities;
reduced license, permit, or ticket sales (e.g. hunting, fishing, ski lifts,
etc.); losses related to curtailed activities (e.g. bird watching, hunting and
fishing, boating, etc.); reduced park visitation; and cancellation or
postponement of sporting events.
Water Supply & Quality
Drought effects associated with water supply and water quality include dry wells,
voluntary and mandatory water restrictions, changes in water rates, easing of
water restrictions, increases in requests for new well permits, changes in water
use due to water restrictions, greater water demand, decreases in water
allocation or allotments, installation or alteration of water pumps or water
intakes, changes to allowable water contaminants, water line damage or repairs
due to drought stress, drinking water turbidity, change in water color or odor,
declaration of drought watches or warnings, and mitigation activities.
General Awareness applies only to media reports and usually indicates that people
are concerned about drought but no specific impact has occurred yet or the information
is too general to use for an impact.
The state icon means that the
affected area of an impact or a report is statewide and is mapped to all the counties in a particular state.
The “thumbs up” icon
means that a report or impact has been identified as a positive result of drought,
such as fewer construction delays due to rain. The Advanced Search page allows users
to restrict searches to positive impacts. Positive impacts are rare. As of September
2011, only 36 out of more than 13,000 impacts were positive.
Access visual overlays by using the overlays tab on the legend. Put a checkmark
in the box to make a layer visible, and expand the bar to get to the opacity control.
When one of the Overlays is checked, you won’t be able to click on a state
or county for more detail as you normally would.
U.S. Drought Monitor
The default selection for the Drought Monitor overlay is the most recent
U.S. Drought Monitor. Click in the date window to select a different week’s
Drought Monitor, and click the refresh icon to the right of the date window to update it.
Hydrologic Unit Codes
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) are river basins and sub-basins – drainage areas.
Climate Divisions are a long-standing convention in climate data.
A congressional district is a territorial division of a state, represented by an
elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives. These officials may be interested
in how drought is affecting their constituents.
Risk Management Agency (RMA) Regions
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers crop insurance, decision support, and
other forms of assistance to farmers and ranchers through the
Risk Management Agency. The National Drought Mitigation Center developed
the Drought Impact Reporter with support from the Risk Management Agency, among others.
The Advanced Search is a text-based interface accessible from the main navigation bar that allows users to search the DIR’s database at an increasingly detailed level, and produces a relatively printer-friendly list of results.
Access the Advanced Search via the navigation bar. The drop-down menu under Advanced Search allows you to choose either Impacts or Reports. Impacts are slightly more abstract, while reports may contain more detail and can be searched in more ways.
Note that the default location selection is "none," and the search won't work until you choose one or more locations.
Clicking on Add All States will search across all 50 U.S. states. When you click on
add all states, you'll see them all appear in the box above.
To select a single state state, click on the arrow to the right of the name of the state. The name of the state should appear in the box above.
To select one or more counties within a state, first click on the name of the state (but not the arrow). The state should be highlighted, should NOT appear in the box above, and a list of counties should appear in the column to the right. To select a county, click on the arrow to the right of the name. It should appear in the box above.
To select a city, first click on the name of its state. The state should be highlighted, but should NOT appear in the box above. Then begin typing the name of the city in the window below the word City, and select the correct city when it appears in the list below by clicking on the arrow to the right of its name.
To unselect a state, county, or city, click on the x to the left of its name in the box above.
If all but a few counties in a state are affected, you can select all, which will highlight all of them, and then hold down the control key and click on the county names to unselect them, and then click add selected to make the ones still highlighted appear in the box above.
Note that the Advanced Search for reports allows you to choose whether to search by the location of the source of the report, or by the affected area. In many cases, state capitals and metropolitan areas are where many reports are published, but the areas actually affected by drought are in remote rural regions.
Select Time Interval
The default time interval is the past 30 days, but you can use the calendar widget to customize it. The search should find any impact with a start date, end date, or time span that is between the specified start and end date.
On the Advanced Search for reports, the time selector allows you to choose whether to search by publication date or by impact start and end date. The default is by publication date because all reports have publication dates, but many do not have impact start or end dates.
The category feature for the Advanced Search of impacts works just like it does on the map. Please refer to category descriptions.
The category feature for the Advanced Search of reports includes five agricultural sub-categories that are unique to Hawaii. Reports using these categories can only be selected via the Hawaii Report submission form. The Hawaiian subcategories are searchable in reports. In impacts, they are generalized into Agriculture.
Some of our reports and impacts have dollar amounts associated with them. The Dollar Amount search lets users choose to see only impacts or reports with dollar amounts associated with them, and to specify a minimum amount.
This feature allows users to find the few reports and impacts identified as positive.
The Keyword search for impacts queries the title and summary. For reports, it queries the fields containing the summary, the name of the source (i.e., New York Times), the title, and the full text. The Drought Impact Reporter archives but does not display the full text of media reports.
The keyword search uses a free text search, which treats a two-word search term, such as "Bill Smith" as two separate searches, and finds inflectional forms of the word. In other words, searching for "Bill Smith" would turn up any text including "billable," "legislative bill," "Billy Bob," or "blacksmith."
You can narrow your search to include only reports and impacts from one or more source types or sub-types, down to individual observers, in some cases.
Expanding the User Reports option allows users to search by type of observer.
Expanding CoCoRaHS reports allows users to find impacts or reports from a specific station.
After you have selected search criteria, click the Search button at the bottom of the form. It will retrieve your results (or prompt you to select a location).
Below the summary of search results and above the list of results are options that allow users to select the level of detail they would like to see. Clicking on each option expands the list accordingly.
Choose Level of Impact Detail
Choose Level of Report Detail