University playing key statewide role 

An outdoor stroll, with the feel of grass crunching against your shoes, may have left the impression that the area is having a dry spell.    

You aren’t wrong.  

Moderate-to-extreme levels of drought are gripping much of Tennessee, according to East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Andrew Joyner.  

A member of the Department of Geosciences, Joyner is the state’s official climatologist.   

“We’ve seen reports of dry pastures and soils, as well as decreased pond levels,” said Joyner. “This is having an impact on our region and state, especially as it relates to agriculture.”  

Joyner leads the Tennessee Climate Office, based at ETSU, and is playing a critical statewide part in the ongoing situation. His team is charged with, among other responsibilities, leading the state’s drought recommendations committee.   

It’s an important role.   

Those updates affect the Drought Monitor for Tennessee, which can help trigger government action, such as limiting water usage or allowing farmers to apply for crop loss disaster assistance.   

“We are encouraging agriculture extension agents and others to submit conditions, impacts and photos through the Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR) tool,” he said. “During the 2000, 2007 and 2016 droughts, increasingly large wildfires occurred.”   

He added: “We’re not quite to the same level yet, but if the dry pattern continues, I would be pretty concerned.”  

Much of the Appalachian Highlands region, from Johnson City to Greeneville, is presently ranked in a “moderate drought” status by Joyner’s team. It’s the first of four drought categories. Areas farther south, including Chattanooga, are listed in an “extreme drought,” the third of the four categories.


East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in the region and beyond. Through its world-class health sciences programs and interprofessional approach to health care education, ETSU is a highly respected leader in rural health research and practices. The university also boasts nationally ranked programs in the arts, technology, computing, and media studies. ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students each year and is ranked among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation for students graduating with the least amount of debt.

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