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Refining drought metrics for Southeast Alaska

To help refine drought metrics to be more regionally specific for southeast Alaska, the Northwest Climate Hub is working with the National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and others to gather information and data to better understand how regionally specific drought impacts relate to drought categories (i.e. D0 abnormally dry - D4 exceptional drought). Learn more about drought from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

After the Southeast Alaska Drought Workshop, a small group gathered to begin the process of refining drought metrics based on information shared at the workshop. Below are questions we developed to help refine drought metrics for southeast Alaska. If you have any information or data that can help address any of these questions, contact one or all of the following people:

Holly Prendeville USDA Northwest Climate Hub
Aaron Jacobs National Weather Service-Juneau
Rick Thoman Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy


Water / streams / fish

  • At what streamflow levels and/or temperatures do changes in fish migration and/or fish kills occur?
  • How often have fish kills been observed?
    • How many hypoxia events have happened?
    • How many fish have died during hypoxia events?
  • List of streamflow dominance (for better understanding of streamflows): rainfall, glacial melt, snowmelt
  • Are there well and groundwater data? Where and when have deficits been seen?


  • 2019 is the earliest that DIPAC has ponded fry (January).
  • What did other hatcheries do in 2019?
    • When in the past have hatcheries ponded fry?
    • What were the dates? Deciding factors?
    • When is the “normal” time is for doing this?

Algal blooms 

  • When have algal blooms happened and what is the relationship to climate data?
  • How long do algal blooms last?
  • Is there a relationship between fish kills and algal blooms?


  • Is there a reason to turn on diesel generators when there is water?
  • Has the water level ever gone below the intake? Can they envision it ever happening?
  • Can we get historical reservoir levels (correlate to various percentiles)?
    • Considerations: reservoirs levels aren’t always correlated to drought as levels depend on demand, use, precipitation, time of year; need to revisit historical data considering this information


  • What roles do permafrost and glaciers play as an indicator/impact of drought?

Forest & Plant Health 

  • Sawflies and other insects: What is the relationship between historical information on sawfly outbreaks and climate data?
  • Salal: When have ‘burnt leaves’ been seen in the past? How long did it last?
  • Duff: What is the average amount of time for the duff to dry out enough to where it could start a fire?  Is there data that we can use to link this to drought?
  • Berries: Relationship between drought and berry production? Is there a lag?  What timescale?  What is the relationships between berry production and climate data (temperatures/precipitation)?

Increases in wildlife interactions (in search of food and water) 

  • Where are good sources to obtain these types of data?
  • How do the observed increases relate to the climate data?