Equity, Justice, and Drought: Lessons for Climate Services from the U.S. Southwest

Christina Greene, Daniel B. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drought is a complex hazard, with many interconnected impacts on environment and society. Droughts are difficult to monitor as they are slow-moving events with impacts that are not always visible. There is an increasing call to study and monitor droughts as a human–environment process and to provide climate services that can inform proactive decision-making on drought. While climate services strive to make droughts visible and therefore manageable for society, many of the equity issues that arise during periods of drought remain largely invisible. In this article we explore inequity in drought impacts in the U.S. Southwest, focusing on agriculture, household water security, and wildfires. Drawing from lessons in the literature on equity, environmental justice, and climate services as well as our experience researching drought impacts in the Southwest, we recommend that climate services can support drought decision-making that addresses equity issues by 1) integrating both physical and social dimensions of drought in climate services, 2) investing in engagement and trust building with diverse communities, and 3) better integrating place-based knowledge to reconcile scaling challenges. With the acceleration of the warming and drying of many parts of the world, there is an ever-increasing need to focus on reducing inequities in drought preparedness and response, which we propose starts with production of drought information that is more reflective of how droughts are experienced across all parts of society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E45-E58
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Climate services
  • Drought
  • North America
  • Social Science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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