Abrupt drought termination in the British-Irish Isles driven by high atmospheric vapour transport

Parry, Simon ORCID:; Lavers, David; Wilby, Rob; Prudhomme, Christel; Wood, Paul; Murphy, Conor; O'Connor, Paul. 2023 Abrupt drought termination in the British-Irish Isles driven by high atmospheric vapour transport. Environmental Research Letters, 18 (10), 104050. 13, pp.

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During protracted dry spells, there is considerable interest from water managers, media and the public in when and how drought termination (DT) will occur. Robust answers to these questions require better understanding of the hydroclimatic drivers of DT than currently available. Integrated vapour transport (IVT) has been found to drive DT in western North America, but evidence elsewhere is lacking. To evaluate this association for the British-Irish Isles, Event Coincidence Analysis is applied to 354 catchments in the UK and Ireland over the period 1900-2010 using ERA-20C reanalysis IVT data and 7,589 DT events extracted from reconstructed river flow series. Linkages are identified for 53% of all DT events across all catchments. Associations are particularly strong for catchments in western and southern regions and in autumn and winter. In Western Scotland, 80% of autumn DTs are preceded by high IVT, whilst in southern England more than two thirds of winter DTs follow high IVT episodes. High IVT and DT are most strongly associated in less permeable, wetter upland catchments of western Britain, reflecting their maritime setting and orographic enhancement of prevailing south-westerly high IVT episodes. Although high IVT remains an important drought-terminating mechanism further east, it less frequently results in DT. Furthermore, the highest rates of DT occur with increasing IVT intensity, and the vast majority of the most abrupt DTs only occur following top decile IVT and under strongly positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions. Since IVT and NAO forecasts may be more skilful than those for rainfall which underpin current forecasting systems (e.g. the UK Hydrological Outlook), incorporating these findings into such systems has potential to underpin enhanced forecasting of DTs. This could help to mitigate impacts of abrupt recoveries from drought including water quality issues and managing compound drought-flood hazards concurrently.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: drought recovery, integrated vapour transport, atmospheric rivers, event coincidence analysis, UK, Ireland
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Meteorology and Climatology
Atmospheric Sciences
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Date made live: 30 Oct 2023 11:59 +0 (UTC)

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