Drought in a human-modified world

Reframing drought definitions, understanding, and analysis approaches

Anne F. van Loon*, Kerstin Stahl, Giuliano Di Baldassarre, Julian Clark, Sally Rangecroft, Niko Wanders, Tom Gleeson, Albert I.J.M. van Dijk, Lena M. Tallaksen, Jamie Hannaford, Remko Uijlenhoet, Ryan Teuling, David M. Hannah, Justin Sheffield, Mark Svoboda, Boud Verbeiren, Thorsten Wagener, Henny A.J. van Lanen

*Corresponding author for this work

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71 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the current human-modified world, or Anthropocene, the state of water stores and fluxes has become dependent on human as well as natural processes. Water deficits (or droughts) are the result of a complex interaction between meteorological anomalies, land surface processes, and human inflows, outflows, and storage changes. Our current inability to adequately analyse and manage drought in many places points to gaps in our understanding and to inadequate data and tools. The Anthropocene requires a new framework for drought definitions and research. Drought definitions need to be revisited to explicitly include human processes driving and modifying soil moisture drought and hydrological drought development. We give recommendations for robust drought definitions to clarify timescales of drought and prevent confusion with related terms such as water scarcity and overexploitation. Additionally, our understanding and analysis of drought need to move from single driver to multiple drivers and from uni-directional to multi-directional. We identify research gaps and propose analysis approaches on (1) drivers, (2) modifiers, (3) impacts, (4) feedbacks, and (5) changing the baseline of drought in the Anthropocene. The most pressing research questions are related to the attribution of drought to its causes, to linking drought impacts to drought characteristics, and to societal adaptation and responses to drought. Example questions include i) What are the dominant drivers of drought in different parts of the world? (ii) How do human modifications of drought enhance or alleviate drought severity? (iii) How do impacts of drought depend on the physical characteristics of drought vs. the vulnerability of people or the environment? (iv) To what extent are physical and human drought processes coupled, and can feedback loops be identified and altered to lessen or mitigate drought? (v) How should we adapt our drought analysis to accommodate changes in the normal situation (i.e. what are considered normal or reference conditions) over time? Answering these questions requires exploration of qualitative and quantitative data as well as mixed modelling approaches. The challenges related to drought research and management in the Anthropocene are not unique to drought, but do require urgent attention. We give recommendations drawn from the fields of flood research, ecology, water management, and water resources studies. The framework presented here provides a holistic view on drought in the Anthropocene, which will help improve management strategies for mitigating the severity and reducing the impacts of droughts in future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3631-3650
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Volume20
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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van Loon, Anne F. ; Stahl, Kerstin ; Di Baldassarre, Giuliano ; Clark, Julian ; Rangecroft, Sally ; Wanders, Niko ; Gleeson, Tom ; van Dijk, Albert I.J.M. ; Tallaksen, Lena M. ; Hannaford, Jamie ; Uijlenhoet, Remko ; Teuling, Ryan ; Hannah, David M. ; Sheffield, Justin ; Svoboda, Mark ; Verbeiren, Boud ; Wagener, Thorsten ; van Lanen, Henny A.J. / Drought in a human-modified world : Reframing drought definitions, understanding, and analysis approaches. In: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. 2016 ; Vol. 20, No. 9. pp. 3631-3650.
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abstract = "In the current human-modified world, or Anthropocene, the state of water stores and fluxes has become dependent on human as well as natural processes. Water deficits (or droughts) are the result of a complex interaction between meteorological anomalies, land surface processes, and human inflows, outflows, and storage changes. Our current inability to adequately analyse and manage drought in many places points to gaps in our understanding and to inadequate data and tools. The Anthropocene requires a new framework for drought definitions and research. Drought definitions need to be revisited to explicitly include human processes driving and modifying soil moisture drought and hydrological drought development. We give recommendations for robust drought definitions to clarify timescales of drought and prevent confusion with related terms such as water scarcity and overexploitation. Additionally, our understanding and analysis of drought need to move from single driver to multiple drivers and from uni-directional to multi-directional. We identify research gaps and propose analysis approaches on (1) drivers, (2) modifiers, (3) impacts, (4) feedbacks, and (5) changing the baseline of drought in the Anthropocene. The most pressing research questions are related to the attribution of drought to its causes, to linking drought impacts to drought characteristics, and to societal adaptation and responses to drought. Example questions include i) What are the dominant drivers of drought in different parts of the world? (ii) How do human modifications of drought enhance or alleviate drought severity? (iii) How do impacts of drought depend on the physical characteristics of drought vs. the vulnerability of people or the environment? (iv) To what extent are physical and human drought processes coupled, and can feedback loops be identified and altered to lessen or mitigate drought? (v) How should we adapt our drought analysis to accommodate changes in the normal situation (i.e. what are considered normal or reference conditions) over time? Answering these questions requires exploration of qualitative and quantitative data as well as mixed modelling approaches. The challenges related to drought research and management in the Anthropocene are not unique to drought, but do require urgent attention. We give recommendations drawn from the fields of flood research, ecology, water management, and water resources studies. The framework presented here provides a holistic view on drought in the Anthropocene, which will help improve management strategies for mitigating the severity and reducing the impacts of droughts in future.",
author = "{van Loon}, {Anne F.} and Kerstin Stahl and {Di Baldassarre}, Giuliano and Julian Clark and Sally Rangecroft and Niko Wanders and Tom Gleeson and {van Dijk}, {Albert I.J.M.} and Tallaksen, {Lena M.} and Jamie Hannaford and Remko Uijlenhoet and Ryan Teuling and Hannah, {David M.} and Justin Sheffield and Mark Svoboda and Boud Verbeiren and Thorsten Wagener and {van Lanen}, {Henny A.J.}",
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van Loon, AF, Stahl, K, Di Baldassarre, G, Clark, J, Rangecroft, S, Wanders, N, Gleeson, T, van Dijk, AIJM, Tallaksen, LM, Hannaford, J, Uijlenhoet, R, Teuling, R, Hannah, DM, Sheffield, J, Svoboda, M, Verbeiren, B, Wagener, T & van Lanen, HAJ 2016, 'Drought in a human-modified world: Reframing drought definitions, understanding, and analysis approaches', Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol. 20, no. 9, pp. 3631-3650. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-3631-2016

Drought in a human-modified world : Reframing drought definitions, understanding, and analysis approaches. / van Loon, Anne F.; Stahl, Kerstin; Di Baldassarre, Giuliano; Clark, Julian; Rangecroft, Sally; Wanders, Niko; Gleeson, Tom; van Dijk, Albert I.J.M.; Tallaksen, Lena M.; Hannaford, Jamie; Uijlenhoet, Remko; Teuling, Ryan; Hannah, David M.; Sheffield, Justin; Svoboda, Mark; Verbeiren, Boud; Wagener, Thorsten; van Lanen, Henny A.J.

In: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 20, No. 9, 2016, p. 3631-3650.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Drought in a human-modified world

T2 - Reframing drought definitions, understanding, and analysis approaches

AU - van Loon, Anne F.

AU - Stahl, Kerstin

AU - Di Baldassarre, Giuliano

AU - Clark, Julian

AU - Rangecroft, Sally

AU - Wanders, Niko

AU - Gleeson, Tom

AU - van Dijk, Albert I.J.M.

AU - Tallaksen, Lena M.

AU - Hannaford, Jamie

AU - Uijlenhoet, Remko

AU - Teuling, Ryan

AU - Hannah, David M.

AU - Sheffield, Justin

AU - Svoboda, Mark

AU - Verbeiren, Boud

AU - Wagener, Thorsten

AU - van Lanen, Henny A.J.

PY - 2016

Y1 - 2016

N2 - In the current human-modified world, or Anthropocene, the state of water stores and fluxes has become dependent on human as well as natural processes. Water deficits (or droughts) are the result of a complex interaction between meteorological anomalies, land surface processes, and human inflows, outflows, and storage changes. Our current inability to adequately analyse and manage drought in many places points to gaps in our understanding and to inadequate data and tools. The Anthropocene requires a new framework for drought definitions and research. Drought definitions need to be revisited to explicitly include human processes driving and modifying soil moisture drought and hydrological drought development. We give recommendations for robust drought definitions to clarify timescales of drought and prevent confusion with related terms such as water scarcity and overexploitation. Additionally, our understanding and analysis of drought need to move from single driver to multiple drivers and from uni-directional to multi-directional. We identify research gaps and propose analysis approaches on (1) drivers, (2) modifiers, (3) impacts, (4) feedbacks, and (5) changing the baseline of drought in the Anthropocene. The most pressing research questions are related to the attribution of drought to its causes, to linking drought impacts to drought characteristics, and to societal adaptation and responses to drought. Example questions include i) What are the dominant drivers of drought in different parts of the world? (ii) How do human modifications of drought enhance or alleviate drought severity? (iii) How do impacts of drought depend on the physical characteristics of drought vs. the vulnerability of people or the environment? (iv) To what extent are physical and human drought processes coupled, and can feedback loops be identified and altered to lessen or mitigate drought? (v) How should we adapt our drought analysis to accommodate changes in the normal situation (i.e. what are considered normal or reference conditions) over time? Answering these questions requires exploration of qualitative and quantitative data as well as mixed modelling approaches. The challenges related to drought research and management in the Anthropocene are not unique to drought, but do require urgent attention. We give recommendations drawn from the fields of flood research, ecology, water management, and water resources studies. The framework presented here provides a holistic view on drought in the Anthropocene, which will help improve management strategies for mitigating the severity and reducing the impacts of droughts in future.

AB - In the current human-modified world, or Anthropocene, the state of water stores and fluxes has become dependent on human as well as natural processes. Water deficits (or droughts) are the result of a complex interaction between meteorological anomalies, land surface processes, and human inflows, outflows, and storage changes. Our current inability to adequately analyse and manage drought in many places points to gaps in our understanding and to inadequate data and tools. The Anthropocene requires a new framework for drought definitions and research. Drought definitions need to be revisited to explicitly include human processes driving and modifying soil moisture drought and hydrological drought development. We give recommendations for robust drought definitions to clarify timescales of drought and prevent confusion with related terms such as water scarcity and overexploitation. Additionally, our understanding and analysis of drought need to move from single driver to multiple drivers and from uni-directional to multi-directional. We identify research gaps and propose analysis approaches on (1) drivers, (2) modifiers, (3) impacts, (4) feedbacks, and (5) changing the baseline of drought in the Anthropocene. The most pressing research questions are related to the attribution of drought to its causes, to linking drought impacts to drought characteristics, and to societal adaptation and responses to drought. Example questions include i) What are the dominant drivers of drought in different parts of the world? (ii) How do human modifications of drought enhance or alleviate drought severity? (iii) How do impacts of drought depend on the physical characteristics of drought vs. the vulnerability of people or the environment? (iv) To what extent are physical and human drought processes coupled, and can feedback loops be identified and altered to lessen or mitigate drought? (v) How should we adapt our drought analysis to accommodate changes in the normal situation (i.e. what are considered normal or reference conditions) over time? Answering these questions requires exploration of qualitative and quantitative data as well as mixed modelling approaches. The challenges related to drought research and management in the Anthropocene are not unique to drought, but do require urgent attention. We give recommendations drawn from the fields of flood research, ecology, water management, and water resources studies. The framework presented here provides a holistic view on drought in the Anthropocene, which will help improve management strategies for mitigating the severity and reducing the impacts of droughts in future.

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