Added value of seasonal hindcasts to create UK hydrological drought storylines

Chan, Wilson C.H. ORCID:; Arnell, Nigel W.; Darch, Geoff; Facer-Childs, Katie ORCID:; Shepherd, Theodore G.; Tanguy, Maliko ORCID: 2024 Added value of seasonal hindcasts to create UK hydrological drought storylines [in special issue: Drought, society, and ecosystems] Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 24 (3). 1065-1078.

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The UK has experienced recurring periods of hydrological droughts in the past, including the drought declared in summer 2022. Seasonal hindcasts, consisting of a large sample of plausible weather sequences, can be used to create drought storylines and add value to existing approaches to water resources planning. In this study, the drivers of winter rainfall in the Anglian region in England are investigated using the ECMWF SEAS5 hindcast dataset, which includes 2850 plausible winters across 25 ensemble members and 3 lead times. Four winter clusters are defined using the hindcast winters based on possible combinations of various atmospheric circulation indices (such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO; East Atlantic, EA, pattern; and El Niño–Southern Oscillation). Using the 2022 drought as a case study, we demonstrate how storylines representing alternative ways the event could have unfolded can be used to explore plausible worst-case scenarios over winter 2022/23 and beyond. The winter clusters span a range of temperature and rainfall response in the study region and represent circulation storylines that could have happened over winter 2022/23. River flow and groundwater level simulations with the large sample of plausible hindcast winters show that drier-than-average winters characterised by predominantly NAO−/EA− and NAO+/EA− circulation patterns could have resulted in the continuation of the drought with a high likelihood of below-normal to low river flows across all selected catchments and boreholes by spring and summer 2023. Catchments in Norfolk were particularly vulnerable to a dry summer in 2023 as river flows were not estimated to recover to normal levels even with wet winters characterised predominantly by NAO−/EA+ and NAO+/EA+ circulation patterns, due to insufficient rainfall to overcome previous dry conditions and the slow response nature of groundwater-dominated catchments. Through this analysis, we aim to demonstrate the added value of this approach to create drought storylines during an ongoing event. Storylines constructed in this way supplement traditional weather forecasts and hydrological outlooks, in order to explore a wider range of plausible outcomes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1684-9981
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Meteorology and Climatology
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Date made live: 03 Apr 2024 13:08 +0 (UTC)

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