Forecasting Rapid Drought Intensification Using the Climate Forecast System (CFS)

D. J. Lorenz, J. A. Otkin, M. Svoboda, C. R. Hain, Y. Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In this study, a statistical method is developed to generate probabilistic forecasts of U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM)-depicted drought intensification over two-, four-, and six-week time periods using recent observations and forecast model output from the Climate Forecasting System (CFS). The predictors used include weekly anomalies in precipitation, potential evapotranspiration, dew point depression, and soil moisture computed over different time lags. A comparison between the baseline skill obtained using recent observations only and the skill obtained by adding CFS forecast fields as predictors shows that the inclusion of CFS model output leads to only a very modest increase in skill (about 14% increase in variance explained over the central and eastern United States). An analysis of this result reveals that the small increase in skill is due to limited skill in the CFS forecasts themselves, rather than to a time delay in the USDM response to conditions on the ground. Perfect model experiments also show that not all forecast lead times are equally important. For example, in the upper Midwest and western United States, the first two weeks account for at least two thirds of the total realizable skill for a four-week forecast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8365-8373
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 27 2018


  • Climate Forecast System (CFS)
  • U.S. drought monitor
  • drought
  • predictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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