New Waves May 2011

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

Geosciences professor to develop drought prediction system

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="230" caption="Photo Credit: Texas A&M News and Information Services"]Geosciences professor to develop drought prediction system[/caption]Stephen Quiring, assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Texas A&M University, received a $486,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a drought prediction system for the Great Plains, one of the country’s most fertile but fickle climate regions.

The Great Plains stretch from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border, Quiring said, and despite extremes in weather and sporadic but deadly periods of drought, the region’s annual agricultural production is more than $40 billion. On the other hand, he said, the 1988 drought accounted for a $30 billion loss in agribusiness. The ability to pinpoint the moisture in the soil at any given time and place will help scientists better predict drought conditions and take steps to lessen its effects.

Quiring explained that systematically gathering soil moisture information varies across the region. “We have scattered observation stations, but building a common dataset that covers a vast expanse gives us the tools to monitor drought conditions across the entire region.”

The soil moisture database will be available worldwide and the applications will be numerous. “The agricultural, recreational, and land and water management enterprises are obvious beneficiaries,” the Texas A&M professor said. But the application will also be useful to scientists in numerous disciplines as well as agencies such as NASA and national climate modeling centers.

The five-year study will also give Texas A&M students a unique opportunity to develop research projects in drought monitoring and forecasting. In addition, Quiring will teach a freshman seminar class on drought science and develop a learning community devoted to the subject.

According to the NSF, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, which provided the grant to Quiring, is a foundation-wide activity that offers the organization’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through the integration of education and research.

Read the full Texas A&M News article.

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