Multi-year droughts in Europe: analysis of development and causes

Parry, Simon; Hannaford, Jamie ORCID:; Lloyd-Hughes, Ben; Prudhomme, Christel. 2012 Multi-year droughts in Europe: analysis of development and causes. Hydrology Research, 43 (5). 689-706.

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Whilst hydrological systems can show resilience to short-term streamflow deficiencies during within-year droughts, prolonged deficits during multi-year droughts are a significant threat to water resources security in Europe. This study uses a threshold-based objective classification of regional hydrological drought to qualitatively examine the characteristics, spatio-temporal evolution and synoptic climatic drivers of multi-year drought events in 1962–64, 1975–76 and 1995–97, on a European scale but with particular focus on the UK. Whilst all three events are multi-year, pan-European phenomena, their development and causes can be contrasted. The critical factor in explaining the unprecedented severity of the 1975–76 event is the consecutive occurrence of winter and summer drought. In contrast, 1962–64 was a succession of dry winters, mitigated by quiescent summers, whilst 1995–97 lacked spatial coherence and was interrupted by wet interludes. Synoptic climatic conditions vary within and between multi-year droughts, suggesting that regional factors modulate the climate signal in streamflow drought occurrence. Despite being underpinned by qualitatively similar climatic conditions and commonalities in evolution and characteristics, each of the three droughts has a unique spatio-temporal signature. An improved understanding of the spatio-temporal evolution and characteristics of multi-year droughts has much to contribute to monitoring and forecasting capability, and to improved mitigation strategies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 3 - Science for Water Management > WA - 3.2 - Assessment of available water resources in a changing world ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Boorman (to September 2014)
ISSN: 0029-1277
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This document is the author’s final manuscript version of the journal article, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer review process. Some differences between this and the publisher’s version remain. You are advised to consult the publisher’s version if you wish to cite from this article. The definitive peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Hydrology Research (2012), 43 (5). 689-706. 10.2166/nh.2012.024 and is available at
Additional Keywords: drought, drought catalogue, regional deficiency index, spatial coherence, spatio-temporal evolution, standardised precipitation index
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 26 Oct 2012 09:01 +0 (UTC)

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