National Drought Mitigation Center
NDMC Drought Impact Reporter

Drought Impact Reporter Help

For Optimal Viewing

The Drought Impact Reporter map currently works best in Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or above.


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.

Report Types

Media reports

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.

User Reports

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:

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 occurred yet.

Report with no impact.

CoCoRaHS Reports

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 their location.

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.

Burn Bans

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.

Water Restrictions

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 information.

Hawaii Reports

Drought observers in Hawaii have a special report form that creates a Hawaii Report, similar to a user report, but with five agricultural subcategories.

Legacy Reports

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.


Impacts

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:

Impact with 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.

Mapping

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.

Default view.

Map Controls

Use the compass arrows in the top left corner of the map to move the map view north, south, east or west.

Navigation arrows.

Use the plus sign to zoom in, the minus sign to zoom out, and the world icon to go to the most remote view.

Zoom tools.

Click on Map in the navigation bar to get back to the default view.

Main navigation bar.

If you click on a state, a popup box appears with summary statistics for that state.

Click on a state to get summary statistics.

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 listed next.

List of impacts.

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.

County view.

Click on a county to see summary statistics for that county.

County summary.

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.

County impacts list.

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.

The DIR legend.

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.

Reports and impact layers are turned on.

Time Period

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.

Select a Time Period

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.

Customize your selection. Select a date.

Location

Open the Location selector on the legend to choose a state. Click refresh in order to apply your choice and zoom to the state.

Select a location.

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 original view.

Categories

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.

Agriculture

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, or horticulture.

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.

Energy

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.

Fire

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 warnings.

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

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.

Additional Descriptors

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.


Overlays

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.

Example overlay layer.

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.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Hydrologic Unit Codes

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) are river basins and sub-basins – drainage areas.

HUCs

Climate Divisions

Climate Divisions are a long-standing convention in climate data.

Climate divisions

Congressional Districts

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.

Congressional districts

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.

RMA regions

Advanced Search

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.

Advanced Search Menu

Location

Note that the default location selection is "none," and the search won't work until you choose one or more locations.

Select Impact Location

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 Report Location

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.

Select Time Interval

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.

Select Time Interval

Select Categories

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.

Categories

Dollar Amounts

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.

Positive Impacts

This feature allows users to find the few reports and impacts identified as positive.

Keyword

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."

Source Type

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.

User Reports

Expanding the User Reports option allows users to search by type of observer.

User Report Types

CoCoRaHS Reports

Expanding CoCoRaHS reports allows users to find impacts or reports from a specific station.

User Report Types

Viewing Results

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

Level of Impact Detail

Choose Level of Report Detail

Level of Report Detail