Understanding Droughts

Understanding Droughts Photo Credit: Charles Roffey via flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1Pga8y6


People's perception of benefits and risks related to drought often are based on past experiences and other information that they have heard or read about drought. Use the resources on this sheet to learn more about what a drought is.


Begin by exploring one or both of these resources:

Think about answers to these questions as you explore the resources. You can record your answers on the Understanding Droughts student sheet:

  • How important is water to society?
  • What are some examples of the role that droughts played in American history?
  • Do you think drought could affect you? How would you prepare for a drought?
  • What do people use water for (besides consumption and agriculture)?
  • Where do people get their water from and what happens when something, such as drought, threatens the water supply?

Read What Is Meant by the Term Drought?, which discusses various ways that drought can be defined. Provide explanations for the different definitions on your student sheet: Meteorological, Agricultural, Hydrological, and Socioeconomic.

After you have read this article, be prepared to revise the definition of drought that you did at the beginning of the class.

Knowledge Check

When we think of natural disasters, we usually think of hurricanes or floods. A drought is a natural disaster too, although it occurs over a slower period of time. Go to and read Understanding Your Risk: A Comparison of Droughts, Floods and Hurricanes in the U.S. (Please note: This resource is no longer available on its original site; the link will take you to an archived version at the Internet Archive. While this resource no longer reflects current statistics, the concepts explored in it remain useful.)

After you have read this resource, write a brief explanation of how drought compares to other natural hazards such as floods and hurricanes on your student sheet. Make sure that you include a concise definition of what a drought is in your explanation.

This esheet is a part of the Defining Drought lesson.

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