Don Wilhite

Don Wilhite

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications & Presentations
  • Background
  • Interests
  • Grants
  • Advising
  • Courses Taught
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Title Climatologist and Drought Management Specialist
Address 703 Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Phone 402-472-4270
FAX 402-472-2946
Vitae Download file

Hi, I'm Don Wilhite, professor emeritus of Applied Climate Science and director emeritus in the School of Natural Resources. I am the founding director of the International Drought Information Center in 1989 and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in 1995. I served as director of the NDMC from 1995 until 2007, when I was appointed director of the School of Natural Resources. On August 1, 2012, I stepped down from the SNR's director's position to rejoin the faculty. I have been a faculty member at UNL since 1977. My principal areas of interest include drought monitoring, preparedness, mitigation and policy; climate change; climate impact assessment, and the development of climate-based decision support tools.

Throughout my career, I have worked with many federal and state agencies on climate and drought-related issues. I have also worked in many foreign countries and with numerous international organizations, including several agencies of the United Nations. Most of this work has been associated with the development and implementation of integrated drought management programs and risk-based drought preparedness strategies and policies.

I served as chair of the International Organizing Committee for the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2013. The principal sponsors of this international conference were the World Meteorological Organization, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. The goal of this conference was to promote the adoption of national drought management policies in drought-prone countries. Eighty-seven countries and over 400 persons participated in this meeting. Several follow-on activities related to this meeting have been conducted, including six regional capacity building workshops on drought management and policy. These regional workshops have been held in Bucharest, Romania (July 2013) for Eastern European countries; Fortaleza, Brazil (December 2013) for Latin America and the Caribbean; Hanoi, Vietnam (May 2014) for Asia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (August 2014) for Eastern and Southern Africa; Cairo, Egypt (November 2014) for the Mid-East and North Africa; and Accra, Ghana (May 2015) for Central and West Africa. My role in each of these workshops was to assist with the organization of the workshop, present the keynote address and facilitate discussion.

I also serve as chair the Management and Advisory Committees of the Integrated Drought Management Program (IDMP) launched by the World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership in 2013 ( In 2014, I authored a handbook, Guidelines for National Drought Management Policy: A Template for Action, for the IDMP. This publication is available on the IDMP website in all of the languages of the United Nations.

In September 2014, I was one of four authors that produced a university report, Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska. This report has attracted a great deal of attention across the state and has resulted in numerous initiatives on- and off-campus to identify adaptation and mitigation actions for specific sectors. In the fall 2015, I organized a series of eight sector-based roundtables with the goal of identifying adaptation and mitigation actions available within each sector. This series of 1-day roundtable events resulted in the publication of a summary report in early 2016 ( that will hopefully lead to additional actions on climate change adaptation and mitigation for Nebraska. Several legislative bills and resolutions were introduced in the Nebraska Legislature in 2016 and 2017 that were focused on moving the state towards development of a climate action plan.

I also co-organized a workshop on the Implications of a Changing Arctic on the Water Resources and Agriculture of the Central U.S. in November 2015. This workshop was sponsored by NOAA, USDA and the University of Nebraska. The workshop is associated with the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council which began in April 2015. This report is available at

I have recently completed the 2nd edition of a book, Drought and Water Crises: Integrating Science, Management and Policy. The 1st edition of the book was published in 2005. My co-editor for the 2nd edition is Roger Pulwarty, Senior Climate Scientist at NOAA. This book will be published by CRC Press in late 2017.

I also completed an Atlas of Nebraska with my co-editors, Clark Archer, David Wishart, Rick Edwards, Les Howard and Fred Shelley. This comprehensive atlas will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in October 2017 in conjunction with Nebraska's Sesquicentennial.

Please continue to examine the SNR website and all of the programs of the faculty in the School of Natural Resources. The field of applied climate science offers many opportunities for prospective undergraduate and graduate students. If you are interested in applied climate science, I encourage you to explore training opportunities with this program through direct contact with ACS faculty.

Selected Publications

Dubrovsky, M., M. D. Svoboda, M. Trnka, M. J. Hayes, D. A. Wilhite, Z. Zalud, and P. Hlavinka. (2008). Application of relative drought indices in assessing climate change impacts on drought conditions in Czechia. Theoretical and Applied Climatology. 96. 155-171. Online
Trnka, M., M. Dubrovsky, M. D. Svoboda, D. Semeradova, M. J. Hayes, Z. Zalud, and D. A. Wilhite. 2008. Developing a regional drought climatology for the Czech Republic. International Journal of Climatology. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1745. Online
Woudenberg, D. L., D. A. Wilhite, and M. J. Hayes. 2008. Perception of drought hazard and its sociological impacts in South-Central Nebraska. Great Plains Research, 18(1): 93-102. Online
Wilhite, D. A., M. D. Svoboda, and M. J. Hayes. 2007. Understanding the complex impacts of drought: a key to enhancing drought mitigation and preparedness. Journal of Water Resources Management, 21(5): 763-774. Online
Wu, H., M. D. Svoboda, M. J. Hayes, D. A. Wilhite, and F. Wen. 2007. Appropriate application of the Standardized Precipitation Index in arid locations and dry seasons. International Journal of Climatology, 27: 65-79. Online
Tadesse, T., D. Wilhite, M. Hayes, S. Harms, and S. Goddard. 2005. Discovering associations between climatic and oceanic parameters to monitor drought in Nebraska using data-mining techniques. Journal of Climate, 18(10): 1541-1550. Online
Wu, H., M. Hayes, D. Wilhite, and M. Svoboda. 2005. The effect of the length of record on the Standardized Precipitation Index calculation. International Journal of Climatology, 25: 505-520. Online
Tadesse, T., M. J. Hayes, D. A. Wilhite, and S.K. Harms 2002. Data mining and knowledge discovery of drought in Nebraska. In Proceedings of the 15th Conference on Biometeorology and Aerobiology joint with 16th International Congress on Biometeorology, Oct./Nov. 2002, Kansas City, MO Online
Donald A. Wilhite, M.V.K. Sivakumar and Deborah A. Wood (Eds.). 2000. Early Warning Systems for Drought Preparedness and Drought Management. Proceedings of an Expert Group Meeting held in Lisbon, Portugal, 5-7 September 2000. Geneva, Switzerland: World Meteorological Organization. Online
Published in Drought and Drought Mitigation in Europe, edited by Jürgen V. Vogt and Francesca Somma, pp. 119–131 (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000). Online
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Drought as a natural hazard: Concepts and definitions. Drought Mitigation Center Faculty Publications. Online
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Drought early warning systems in the context of drought preparedness and mitigation. Early Warning Systems for Drought Preparedness and Management. University of Nebraska. Online
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Drought planning: A methodology. Report on the Status of Drought Preparedness and Mitigation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Drought preparedness status, constraints, and future needs: A synthesis. Report on the Status of Drought Preparedness and Mitigation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Universoty of Nebraska.
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Drought: A conceptual overview. Drought: A Global Assessment. University of Nebraska.
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Drought: A global assessment. Routledge Publishers, London. 800 pp.
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Preparing for Drought: A methodology. Drought Mitigation Center Faculty Publications. Paper 72. Chapter 35. Online
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Reducing societal vulnerability to drought: Future challenges. (2000). Drought Mitigation Center Faculty Publications. Paper 75. Chapter 51. Online
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. Responding to drought: Common threads from the past, visions for the future. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 33: 951–959 Online
Wilhite, D.A. 2000. State actions to mitigate drought: Lessons learned. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 33: 961–968 Online
Wilhite, D.A. and O. Vanyarkho 2000. Drought: Pervasive impacts of a creeping phenomenon. Drought Mitigation Center Faculty Publications. Paper 71. Online
Wilhite, D.A., M. Hayes, and M. Svoboda 2000. Monitoring drought using the standardized precipitation index. Drought Mitigation Center Faculty Publications. Paper 70. chapter 12. Online
Wilhite, D.A., M.J. Hayes, and M.D. Svoboda 2000. Drought monitoring and assessment: Status and trends in the United States. Drought Mitigation Center Faculty Publications. Paper 76. Online

Educational Background

  • BS - Central Missouri State University, Geography (1967)
  • MS - Arizonia State University, Geography (1969)
  • PhD - University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Geography, Climate and Water Resources (1975)


  • 2016 – Environmental Leadership Award awarded by Lincoln-Lancaster County (Nebraska) 
  • 1/26/2014 – Award of Merit awarded by Nebraska Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta 
  • Fellow, Daugherty Water for Food Institute, University of Nebraska awarded by Daugherty Water for Food Institute, University of Nebraska 
  • – Fellow, American Meteorological Society awarded by American Meteorological Society's Executive Council 

SNR Mission Area(s)

  • Applied Climate and Spatial Science

Affiliations (index)

Professional Organizations

  • American Geophysical Union
    • Member 
  • American Meteorological Society
    • Member 
  • American Water Resources Association
    • Member 

Notable Websites

Areas of Interest

  • Drought, Mitigation
  • Planning, and Policy
  • Climate Assessment and Impacts
  • Climate Change
  • Human dimensions of natural resources

Currently this page only displays grants that were awarded on 1/1/2009 to the present. If a grant was awarded prior to 1/1/2009 and is still active, it will not be displayed on this page.

Grant Title Implications of Climatic Changes in the Arctic on Agriculture and Water Management in the Great Plains and Midwest Regions of the U.S.: An Exploratory Workshop
Starting Date 6/1/2015
Principal Investigators
Don Wilhite
Ending Date 5/31/2016
Funding Level $9,600.00
Funding Source Agricultural Research Division Strategic Funds

Grant Title University of Nebraska-Lincoln/Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Liaison for Coordination of Water Quality Education Programming in Nebraska
Starting Date 4/1/2012
Principal Investigators
Elbert Dickey
Don Wilhite
Ending Date 9/30/2012
Funding Level $27,750.00
Funding Source Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality


Graduate Program(s)