NOAA creates national drought portal

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to start building a portal next year to furnish improved drought information to state and federal agencies that study and cope with what scientists call 'the creeping disaster.'

NOAA's plans for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) appear in the Exhibit 300 business case summary the agency sent to the Office of Management and the Budget for approval in January.

Input Inc. of Reston, Va. obtained the Exhibit 300 document, which presents detailed budget information for the planned drought information service. The federal technology consulting company estimated the value of a pending NIDIS acquisition at $5 million.

The climate agency's budget document states that the drought portal 'is urgently needed to meet NOAA gaps in observations and decision maker needs under both climate and weather and water strategic goals.'

The budget plan included an drought damage estimate of $6 billion to $8 billion annually. The Homeland Security Department's Federal Emergency Management Agency developed that damage estimate, according to the NOAA budget justification plan.

The NIDIS technology design calls for an acquisition that would
  • build a portal for online access to historical and real-time drought data based on sources within several agencies; and
  • create an infrastructure of software, hardware and services for a soil moisture sensor network at federal Climate Reference Stations.

NOAA has cooperated with other state and federal agencies to analyze the various types of information now available on drought conditions and related natural phenomena. The scientific information developed in that process and other data about how better data could help agencies curb the problem appears at NOAA's Web site.

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