Papers from the Science+ meeting held at the Royal Society and organised and edited by Professor Jim Hall, Associate Professor Jamie Hannaford and Professor Gabriele Hegerl is now available!
The impacts of droughts on people and the natural environment are increasing, due to climate change and over-exploitation of water resources. This Science+ meeting issue explored scientific understanding of changing drought risk and examined drought impacts on the environment, people and the economy. Policy-makers, practitioners and scientists explored policy options for management of droughts in the future.
Water scarcity and drought are increasingly significant environmental challenges. Recent continental scale drought events in Europe have emphasized that the severity, significance and impacts of drought pose a substantial risk to society. Furthermore, climate change projections suggest that in many parts of the world, the frequency, duration and severity of drought events is likely to increase. Despite the immediacy of this risk, communication around drought and water scarcity is difficult, and effecting timely responses is challenging. Whilst there have been significant advances in drought forecasting, monitoring and impact mitigation, many challenges remain.
This Special Issue aims to consolidate cutting-edge, international research on drought and water scarcity, highlighting critical gaps in understanding and setting urgent priorities for research and action, providing an international platform for generating an integrated, systems perspective on this complex, multidimensional and socially constructed environmental hazard.
The special issue is available now as PDF or an e-book, comprising all the articles featured.
Steve Turner, hydrologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, reflects on this year’s record-breaking heatwave and long period of dry weather and looks at the status of the UK’s water resources as we move into autumn and winter…
July 2022 was the driest July in England since 1935. Combined with record breaking temperatures, there are fears of disruption to public water supply and poor crop yields, especially for fruit and vegetables. Cranfield University’s Tim Hess and Ian Holman explore how the current drought is affecting farmers and how it compares to previous droughts in The Conversation.
Increased demand from the heatwave has put short-term pressure on water supply, and should river flows continue to fall, there will be growing threats to water supply later in the year. In his blog, Principal Hydrologist from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Jamie Hannaford uses the Hydrological Summary, Hydrological Outlook and interactive water situation monitoring tools to look at the current water resources situation and how it may evolve in the coming months.
A new paper on the 2018/2019 drought in the United Kingdom has been published in the Royal Meteorological Society’s journal Weather.
The hot summer of 2018 may be memorable for many and, as well as this period, the paper highlights the perhaps less widespread recognition of a longer period of dry conditions leading up to this heatwave, and a similarly protracted dry spell extending into late 2019 in some parts of the United Kingdom.
The paper documents the events in terms of their meteorological and hydrological nature, and assesses the varied impacts droughts had across the UK and touches on how the droughts in 2018/2019 compare with previous episodes.
A new About Drought briefing note: Drought monitoring and early warning: new developments to meet user needs has been released. The note looks at the monitoring, forecasting and early warning needs for different sectors, the key new tools and strategies for monitoring and forecasting droughts, and highlights the ways that sectors such as water companies, regulatory bodies and the agricultural sector have used these tools so far. The note concludes by presenting applications for potential future uses.
The UK, while typically regarded as a wet country, is vulnerable to drought, particularly in some areas of the south and east. There is, therefore, a need for systems that contribute to robust decision-making relating to drought risk. Such systems need to cater for a diversity of sectoral needs. Based on recent drought research, a new suite of tools and approaches have been developed, leading to some advances in early warning capability in the UK of which the briefing note seeks to highlight.
This is the third of a series of briefs to support improved decision making concerning droughts and water scarcity. Click below to read the briefing note.
Climate change projections indicate that extreme events will increase in their frequency and severity in the future. An improved understanding of the drought events of the past can inform current and future management. In this talk, Lucy demonstrates how reconstructed river flows have enabled consistent, national scale characterisation of historic hydrological droughts and how access to current and historic data can support ongoing drought monitoring activities.
The work originates from a number of projects including Historic Droughts and the About Drought programme and you can view the talk below.
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.”
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…