Plenary 3: Aridity and Drought and their Consequences

The goal of the session is to appreciate the complexity of aridity and drought in the U.S. West and in parts of Africa, and recognize commonalities with aridity and drought in other parts of the world.


Veronica Johnson: Veronica Johnson is a meteorologist with News4's weather team. Her forecasts can be seen weekdays on News4 at 4 and on She also hosts America This Week, a weekly 30-minute news show that airs both on NBC4 and on NBCWashington Nonstop. 

Prior to joining News4 in 2000, Johnson worked in Baltimore, both at WMAR and WBFF, in New York at WABC, and at The Weather Channel. She has contributed to local radio shows and programs on The Discovery Network.

Johnson holds a degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and is very active in her field. She is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) seal holder and served on the AMS board from 2005 until 2007. Johnson is also a board member for the Inaugural Board of Enterprise Communication and serves as its Chair. Johnson also serves on the advisory board of Eyes on the Environment and is a member of the AMS Station Scientist Group.

In 2011, Johnson received the AMS Fellow Award, a prestigious award presented to only a few scientists each year. She also serves on DC’s Joint Center Advisory Committee on Climate Change.

In the community, Johnson volunteers for several youth development programs including Environmentors and The Sister Program. She was honored by the New York City Chapter of the NAACP as Black Journalist of the Year and received the Women's Pioneer Award from the DC Female Firefighters in 2006.

Johnson is an avid fitness buff and enjoys rock-climbing, skydiving, and running. One of Johnson’s new hobbies is outdoor photography. She lives in Howard County, Md., with her husband and their three children.

Confirmed Discussants:

Margaret Hiza Redsteer: Dr. Margaret Hiza Redsteer is currently a scientist at the USGS Flagstaff Science Center conducting work on climate change, drought, and related impacts to Native American communities in U.S. southwestern drylands. Margaret leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers that conduct studies on Navajo tribal lands and adjacent communities to examine linkages between geology, climate and land use history. This work provides a foundation for evaluating flood hazards and risks associated with dust and sand storms. In addition, Dr. Redsteer has also published studies that combine traditional knowledge with conventional physical data sets to examine how climate change is affecting drought impacts in remote and poorly monitored regions of the U.S.

She is a lead author on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) working Group II Fifth Assessment Report chapter on Adaptation, Planning and Implementation, and is coordinating lead author for “Unique Challenges Facing southwestern Tribes” the chapter 17 in the southwest technical report for the National Climate Assessment.

Her education includes a B.S. in geology with extended hydrogeology emphasis; an M.S. in sedimentology; and a Ph.D. in isotope and trace element geochemistry.

Luc Gnacadja: Luc Gnacadja is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Since becoming Executive Secretary of the UNCCD in October 2007, Mr. Gnacadja has dedicated himself to mobilizing political will for the fight against desertification, land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought. As a passionate advocate for land and soil, he is calling for a goal of sustainable land use for all and by all along with a target of Zero Net Land Degradation, to secure the continuing availability of healthy and productive land for present and future generations.

Born in Benin, he is an architect by profession.

Before taking up his present position, he served as Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development of Benin from 1999 to 2005. He gained firsthand knowledge of the UNCCD process, over these years, in his capacity as Head of Delegation to the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD, to UNFCCC and to CBD.

In March 2003 he was honored with the "2002 Green Award" in Washington by the World Bank.

Don Wilhite: Dr. Donald A. Wilhite is a Professor of Applied Climate Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S.A.  Prior to August 2012, Dr. Wilhite served as director of the School of Natural Resources, a position he held from 2007 to 2012.  Previously, Dr. Wilhite was the founding Director of the National Drought Mitigation Center in 1995 and the International Drought Information Center in 1989 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  His research and outreach activities have focused on issues of drought monitoring, planning, mitigation, and policy and the use of climate information in decision making.  He has authored or co-authored more than 140 journal articles, monographs, book chapters, and technical reports.  Dr. Wilhite is editor or co-editor of numerous books on drought and drought management, including Coping with Drought Risk in Agriculture and Water Supply Systems: Drought Management and Policy Development in the Mediterranean (Springer, 2009); Drought and Water Crises (CRC Press, 2005); From Disaster Response to Risk Management:  Australia’s National Drought Policy (Springer, 2005); and Drought:  A Global Assessment (Routledge, 2000).  Dr. Wilhite is also the editor of a book series on Drought and Water Crises that is being published by CRC Press, a subsidiary of Taylor and Francis Publishers.  He is currently serving as chair of the International Organizing Committee for the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy being organized for March 2013 by the World Meteorological Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification.

Roger S. Pulwarty: Roger S. Pulwarty is the chief of the Climate and Societal Interactions Division and the director of the National Integrated Drought Information System at NOAA. His research focuses on climate variability and change, social and environmental vulnerability, and on developing climate information services in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Pulwarty is a lead author on the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007), the IPCC Special Report on Managing Extreme Events and Disasters (2011), and the UNISDR Global Assessment of Disaster Risk Reduction (2011).