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Persistence of hydrometeorological droughts in the United Kingdom: a regional analysis of multi-season rainfall and river flow anomalies

Wilby, R.L.; Prudhomme, C.; Parry, S.; Muchan, K.G.L.. 2015 Persistence of hydrometeorological droughts in the United Kingdom: a regional analysis of multi-season rainfall and river flow anomalies. Journal of Extreme Events, 2 (2), 1550006. https://doi.org/10.1142/S2345737615500062

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Abstract/Summary

This paper investigates the spatial and temporal properties of persistent meteorological and hydrological droughts in the UK at national to sub-regional scales. Using 1961–1990 as the reference period, it is shown that the longest observed run of below average rainfall since the 1870s persisted for four years in northern England and parts of Scotland during 1892–1896. The longest observed run of below average discharge since the 1950s/1960s was found for some groundwater fed rivers in the English lowlands and lasted up to 5.5 years during 1988–1993. Distributions of dry-spell lengths were represented by a Markov model fit to each rainfall and discharge record. This model provides a good fit to observed geometric distributions of spell lengths and provides credible runs of below average river flows lasting up to a decade in some vulnerable catchments in southern England. Droughts of this persistence may not yet have occurred within the instrumented record but could have profound water management implications for the region. Predicted 100-year drought durations for catchments in northern England may not be as long but could have serious ramifications for surface water supplies. These findings point to a risk of irreversible drought impacts on aquatic communities that are simultaneously stressed by unsustainable abstractions, poor water quality and/or habitat modifications.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1142/S2345737615500062
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Rees (from October 2014)
ISSN: 2345-7376
Additional Keywords: drought duration, Markov model, homogeneous rainfall region, reconstructed river flow
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 25 Jan 2016 15:27 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/512606

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