Project

Adding the human dimension to drought

Goal: Drought severely impacts societies and ecosystems around the world. Traditionally, drought research has focused solely on natural processes underlying drought development, defining climate variability as only driver of drought. Since in many regions rivers are altered and groundwater levels have decreased dramatically due to groundwater abstraction, human influences can no longer be neglected and should be included as additional driver of drought. Due to complex feedbacks between drought and water abstraction, the effects of human influence and climate cannot simply be added; a major scientific challenge lies in finding the relative effect of both. Therefore, the objective of this project is quantifying the relative importance of climatic and human drivers of hydrological drought at the global scale. The project consists of four steps, in which the drivers of drought will be studied in case studies, the relationship of drought with physical and socio-economic factors will be determined and results will be extrapolated to the global scale, via a validation step in data-rich areas. The final outcome is a spatio-temporal assessment of the relative importance of climate-induced vs. human-induced drought visualised in a global map, which will be a transformative step in our scientific understanding of drought and a major contribution to international environmental programmes.
(funded by NWO - Rubicon)

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Project log

Henny Van Lanen
added a research item
Drought is one of the most extreme weather-related natural hazards. It differs from other hydrometeorological extremes in several ways. It develops gradually and usually over large areas (transnational), mostly resulting from a prolonged period (from months to years) of below-normal precipitation, and drought can occur nearly anywhere on the globe. This chapter adds knowledge on the drought hazard from recently finished and on-going EU-funded research programmes. It covers a description of recent achievements on: (i) processes that generate the drought hazard and how to identify, (ii) trends in past drought hazard, (iii) projections of drought hazard, (iv) monitoring, management and early warning and (v) impacts and policy associated with the drought hazard. Including recent research progress in drought management and drought policy is crucial to become better prepared for the drought hazard, which is associated with building resilience, and hence reducing vulnerability and risk to future drought.
David M. Hannah
added a research item
p>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.</p
Anne Van Loon
added 2 research items
Drought management is inefficient because feedbacks between drought and people are not fully understood. In this human-influenced era, we need to rethink the concept of drought to include the human role in mitigating and enhancing drought.
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 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 versus 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 norm" (i.e. what are considered normal 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.
Anne Van Loon
added a research item
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.
Anne Van Loon
added an update
Sally Rangecroft published a discussion manuscript on "Multi-method assessment of reservoir effects on hydrological droughts in an arid region" in Earth System Dynamics. The discussion phase is open until the end of December via this link: http://earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2016-57/
Abstract. Increasing pressures on water resources in arid regions have led to their increased management and construction of dams; however, the impacts of these anthropogenic activities on hydrological droughts have yet to be incorporated and assessed. Here, the impact of the Santa Juana dam on hydrological drought characteristics downstream has been analysed in the Huasco basin in northern Chile. Two different methods of drought analysis, threshold level method and standardised indices, were applied to observed and modelled data. An upstream-downstream approach was taken for the observation data, analysing the "disturbed" (post-dam) period and the "undisturbed" (pre-dam) period to allow for an assessment of the onset of the significant anthropogenic activity on the hydrological regime. Modelled data from the Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) model generated a naturalised scenario and human-influenced scenario for similar analysis. Our findings show the characteristics of recent drought events in the basin (1965–2013). The reservoir is shown to help alleviate hydrological droughts by reducing frequency, duration and intensity of drought events, though it did not alleviate major multi-year drought events. A delay in timing of drought events has been observed also with the presence of the dam. The reliability of these different methods and approaches to quantify the impact of the dam are evaluated, with concluding recommendations that the threshold level method using an undisturbed threshold may be the most suitable. These findings show an applicable way forward with quantifying the human influence on hydrological droughts, a method that can be applied elsewhere, and on other human activities.
 
Anne Van Loon
added an update
Sally Rangecroft will be presenting results of the project at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting, taking place on 12-16 December, in San Francisco, California. On Friday, 16 December at 08:30 - 08:45am, in Moscone West 3016, Sally will be presenting her research on "Paired Catchment Analysis of the Impact of Human Activities on Hydrological Drought around the World" in the session on "Hydrology, Society, and Environmental Change: Coupled Human-Water Dynamics across Scales I" (H51M).
 
Anne Van Loon
added an update
Panta Rhei “Drought in the Anthropocene” workshop at the University of Birmingham on 19-21 September 2016
Panta Rhei is the new scientific decade of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), which focusses on changes in hydrology and society. Within Panta Rhei there are 32 working groups covering different topics and one is “Drought in the Anthropocene” (http://iahs.info/Commissions--W-Groups/Working-Groups/Panta-Rhei/Working-Groups/Drought-in-the-Anthropocene/). This working group intends to investigate the interaction between drought and people and is linked to the research project "Adding the Human Dimension to Drought". This year the working group is setting up a number of experiments with the aim to study the influence of people on drought, the impact of drought on people and the feedbacks between drought and society. Our overarching goal with these experiments is to increase understanding of drought-society feedbacks, both positive and negative. The workshop organized at the University of Birmingham on 19-21 Sept 2016 had 17 participants from around the world. In three days we discussed data, methods, opportunities and challenges. We also designed a roadmap for our joint research and future meetings. At the end of the workshop we had 10 paper ideas with names and planning, including both review papers and original research papers, on different topics related to drought in the Anthropocene.
 
Anne Van Loon
added a project goal
Drought severely impacts societies and ecosystems around the world. Traditionally, drought research has focused solely on natural processes underlying drought development, defining climate variability as only driver of drought. Since in many regions rivers are altered and groundwater levels have decreased dramatically due to groundwater abstraction, human influences can no longer be neglected and should be included as additional driver of drought. Due to complex feedbacks between drought and water abstraction, the effects of human influence and climate cannot simply be added; a major scientific challenge lies in finding the relative effect of both. Therefore, the objective of this project is quantifying the relative importance of climatic and human drivers of hydrological drought at the global scale. The project consists of four steps, in which the drivers of drought will be studied in case studies, the relationship of drought with physical and socio-economic factors will be determined and results will be extrapolated to the global scale, via a validation step in data-rich areas. The final outcome is a spatio-temporal assessment of the relative importance of climate-induced vs. human-induced drought visualised in a global map, which will be a transformative step in our scientific understanding of drought and a major contribution to international environmental programmes.
(funded by NWO - Rubicon)