Drought and Society

Difficulty Rating: Hard . Academic Discipline: Earth Science, Social Studies . Keywords: social issues

Standards: weather and climate, Natural Resources, Cause and Effect

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Clip Guide

Clip Guide

: Here you will find clear descriptions of what you just saw, how they know what they said they knew, why they know it to be trustworthy information. Finally we will ask the question, "So what!" and explore why the information is important.

WHAT do we know?

In this clip from the 2012 presentation "Climate information, drought, and adaptation," Dr. Pulwarty describes some of the implications of drought in the Four Corners region of the United States, a tribal region. He explains that since 2000 and 2009 the region has experienced increased temperatures that exceed a threshold of normal variation. He explains that increases in temperature, combined with decreases in rainfall (which he refers to as the "precip deficit") have impacted cultural traditions of the Hopi People and the nature of the landscape itself. 

HOW do we know?

Dr. Pulwarty draws his conclusions based on information from a variety of sources. He uses qualitative analysis (such as measurements or models of temperature and rainfall) to compare current and past climate for the Four Corner's Region. Dr. Pulwarty also gathers qualitative data: information that is comprised of non-numerical observations or personal accounts. The qualitative information collected from Hopi elders helps Dr. Pulwarty to put his numbers in the context of social impacts: what do these changes in climate mean for people who live in the region?

WHY can this be trusted?

Dr. Pulwarty gathers his information only from trusted sources. Many of the graphs he uses are created by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). NIDIS is a national organization created by the government to promote objective collaboration between government agencies to help address drought-related issues.

For anecdotal evidence, Dr. Pulwarty spoke directly to members of the Hopi community, whose nation is in the region he was studying. Using a first-hand source to hear about conditions rather than a second or third-hand source helps decrease the chance that details of the account may change as they are passed from source to source.


Dr. Pulwarty states at the end of this clip, "Changes are going to happen. How do we help people preserve dignity...how do we help them get involved in decisions about their own lives?"

Projects such as Dr. Pulwarty's address this concern by a two-fold approach: first, by providing information on the situation to a community at risk and, second, by receiving input from the local community, such as the Hopi, about what actions they believe should be taken. Including the local communities in the decision-making process helps to create adaptation plans that address their specific interests and needs.

Printable Companion Guide: 
Further Reading
Further Reading: 

The complete PowerPoint from this presentation can be found on AGCI's website.

Ferguson, Daniel et al. Drought Preparedness in the Four Corners Region: Workshop Report; April 2010. The Climate Assessment for the Southwest, The Institute for the Environment. University of Arizona.