Drought 2000



To use meteorological data, snow maps, and satellite images to investigate factors that can be used to predict drought.


  • 1999 and 2000 satellite images of Montana.
  • 1991-2000 snow maps derived from satellite images of the United States.
  • 1991-2000 meteorological data of Great Falls, Montana.

Great Falls, Montana

Landsat Image of Great Falls, Montana - August 2000
Image Processing by Kimberly Casey NASA/GSFC

The runway of the Great Falls, Montana Airport can be seen on the right side of this image. This is the airport where all temperature and precipitation data used in this activity were gathered.

The Story

You are a hydrologist--a scientist who studies water. You and two other hydrologists are working together as consultants on a special project for the Montana Department of Agriculture. In the summer of 2000 Montana had a serious drought. Crops were lost and there were many forest fires. The Department of Agriculture has hired you and your partners to identify the factors that can lead to a serious drought and to write a report on your findings. The information in the report should be able to help farmers prepare for future droughts.

The contract requires you to study snow maps, and weather data from the last 10 years, in order to identify patterns that precede droughts. The final report must discuss the conditions that led up to the severe drought and fires of the summer of 2000. The report must be understandable to the lay person, and to farmers, and it must have at least two illustrations, and at least two figures (graphs and images).


Look through the ten years of meteorological data that are provided for the study region. You can view graphs of precipitation and temperature from 1991 through 2000. Also study United States snow maps for the years 1991 - 2000. The meteorological data tables and snow maps give you three variables to study (temperature, precipitation, and snow cover). Divide the work so that each person is responsible for analyzing one of the variables. Two of you will produce a graph of the meteorological variable you select and look for signs that precede drought events. The third person will figure out how the snow-cover data will be useful. Clicking here will give you maps showing the Palmer Drought Index.


Prepare a formal report of your findings. Your report must summarize variables that can be used to predict a drought. Be sure to report on whether or not the predictors you find may be used singly, or must be used in combination. Illustrate your report with graphs and satellite images.

Copyright 2001 Event-Based Science Project