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Europe's drought hazard, impacts, vulnerability and future

An EU team examined Europe's drought history to predict the future hazard. Results included a major impact database, pan-European vulnerability and riks maps, as well as options for drought management for different geo-climatic settings.
Europe's drought hazard, impacts, vulnerability and future
Europe has previously experienced wide-spread droughts, in addition to a general drying trend in southern regions. These have strongly affected agriculture, wildfires and availability of water in populated areas (water supply, energy production, water-born transport, ecosystems).

The EU-funded DROUGHT-R&SPI (Fostering European drought research and science-policy interfacing) project aimed to reduce Europe's vulnerability to drought. This goal was accomplished via six multi-scale case-studies of water-stressed areas, combined with pan-European-scale analyses. Retrospective analysis of drought patterns, impacts and measures taken was expected to illuminate what to expect in future. The project further aimed to develop new methodologies for early-warning. Additionally, the consortium supported the integration of research and policy, including risk reduction and preparedness, through establishment of various drought dialogue for a at various scales (case-studies, national, Europe). Results were linked with the European Drought Centre.

What is more, three project-organised drought dialogue for a enabled stakeholder discussion both at the case study scale and the European scale. Topics included drought risk factors, interpreting options in EU policy documents, evolution of current methods, early warning, communication about past and future drought hazards, plus feedback on drought management and policy across scales.

Developments included establishment of a historical (1958 to 2009) European Drought Reference (EDR) database. Historical study of direct measurements revealed a wetting trend in northern Europe and the reverse in southern Europe, although summer streamflow decreased almost everywhere. Findings inferred from proxy data archived between 1500 and 1950 revealed that frequency of dry periods had not increased in most regions. Researchers used the EDR to test hydrological models, yielding an assessment of the drought-consequences of climate change. The team also contributed improved understanding of drought-causing atmospheric processes, and the importance of groundwater storage.

The group outlined policy recommendations for drought-reduction for six case study areas in Switzerland, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. Collectively, the studies concluded that the complex situation needs tailored management responses in each region.

A general output was a set of pan-European maps indicating vulnerability to drought impact and likelihood of occurrence. Risk for agriculture is highest in the Mediterranean, and other populated areas face risks affecting public water supply. Further maps break down vulnerability according to 19 separate factors. At present, a single do-everything drought index does not exist, and management will depend on tailored indicator and decision-support systems.

DROUGHT-R&SPI assessed how drought will threaten various European regions. Such work supports policy options to reduce vulnerability and improve adaptability.

Related information


Drought, research, policy, database, hazard, impacts, warning, vulnerability, risk, pan- Europe, DROUGHT-R&SPI
Record Number: 181144 / Last updated on: 2016-04-27
Domain: Industrial Technologies