Experts from the About Drought project have given updates on the recent changeable weather we’ve been seeing in the UK and further afield.
The team at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) released a blog post which focused on the hydrological transformation following the wettest February on record, which soon turned into one of the driest springs on record. Low soil moisture and river flows at the end of May have resulted in impacts on agriculture and the environment, and heightened concerns over water resources over the longer term.
“There is now an increasing risk of reduced crop yields and potential water use restrictions.”
Katie Muchan, Hydrologist at UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Adding to the debate, Professor Len Shaffrey at the University of Reading contributed to a blog post exploring the reasons as to why we are seeing such changeable weather.
The article explores whether the persistent high-pressure “blocking” weather systems which bring clear, dry conditions for many days or weeks, are becoming more frequent. These systems are particularly synonymous with heatwaves and drought in summer and bitterly cold conditions in winter.
Len explains that changes in the Arctic, “might influence the frequency of blocking events”:
“The theories suggest that as the Arctic warms, changes in the strength and position of the northern hemisphere jet stream will allow blocking events to become more frequent.”
Following the wettest February on record earlier this year, last month is set to be declared the driest May in England for 124 years with some water regions warning of potential drought conditions.
The UK Water Resources Portal allows anyone with an interest in current water resources or drought conditions to explore the data both nationally and locally. The portal makes use of very recently published river flow data from the Environment Agency and rainfall data from the Met Office to show the situation across the UK. Alongside historical data and standardised indices, the Portal allows users to put the current situation into a historical context.
Hay Festival and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) joined forces for Trans.MISSION II, a new global project pairing leading environmental researchers with award-winning storytellers to communicate cutting-edge science to new audiences. The UK strand saw British writer and journalist Patrice Lawrence paired with scientists Dr Sarah Ayling, Professor Lindsey McEwen from the DRY project. Using the project’s work as inspiration, Patrice and the team have created a piece of creative writing to highlight the issues around UK droughts and water scarcity.
Patrice Lawrence is a British writer and journalist, who has published fiction both for adults and children. Her writing has won awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Children and The Bookseller YA Book Prize.
The work was launched at Hay Festival Online festival on the 25 May 2020. The story, by Patrice Lawrence, is set in the not too distant future when London is running low on water…
A drought storybook for children has won a national award for its beautifully illustrated message about water scarcity in the UK.
In announcing the Geographical Association Publishers’ Silver Award for ‘DRY: Diary of a Water Superhero’ on Thursday, April 16th (2020), judges said ‘… this fantastic picture book found the perfect balance as a powerful personal story line, supported by excellent art work, delivering a range of interesting geographical facts’.
The book, written as a young girl’s diary, has been published by the Drought Risk & You (DRY) Project, which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The story runs over the course of a year and tells how an ordinary schoolgirl in the UK transforms into a water superhero when a dry summer and winter with little rainfall lead to drought. Seeing life through ‘water goggles’, the girl shares her new-found love of water with her school and community, as the drought progresses.
The story and accompanying teacher notes were created by Prof Lindsey McEwen, who heads the DRY project and is Professor of Environmental Management and Director of the Centre for Water, Communities and Resilience at the University of the West of England Bristol (UWE); Dr Verity Jones, Senior Lecturer in Education at UWE; Sarah Whitehouse, Senior Lecturer in Education & Humanities at UWE and Dr Sara Williams, an environmental psychologist and researcher. The illustrations by artist Luci Gorell Barnes play a key role in projecting the relevance of the story and the science behind it.
The award was judged on the book’s
impact, originality, quality and usability.
Prof McEwen said: “Our
authoring team are extremely pleased to gain this external recognition for
excellence. Our book aims to make new research accessible to, and engaging
for, young children. The development of the book and teachers’ notes represents
a new successful creative collaboration between University of the West of
England Bristol’s Centre for Water, Communities and Resilience and its Primary
Education specialists, working together with socially-engaged artist Luci
The DRY Project is part of About Drought, the UK’s
Drought & Water Scarcity Research Programme, funded by NERC as part of UK
Research Innovation (UKRI). Three themes of the research are explored in the
book: classifying different types of UK droughts and their impacts;
interrogating common misconceptions surrounding UK drought; and exploring what
actions citizens might take to prepare for drought and how children can be
agents for change in rethinking water behaviours.
The full Silver Award citation reads: “The judges thought that this fantastic picture book found the perfect balance as a powerful personal story line, supported by excellent artwork, delivering a range of interesting geographical facts. This results in a book that will engage and empower a KS2 audience studying water or wider environmental issues. The accompanying teacher’s guide is filled with challenging and thought-provoking activities that include developing the concepts of ‘water footprints’ and ‘UK droughts’. They are well designed to deepen pupils’ thinking and facilitate questioning, discussion and debate. The message that we can all be champions of change is a key one and will inspire children to take action.”