A quantitative evaluation of the issue of drought definition: a source of disagreement in future drought assessments

Satoh, Y., Shiogama, H., Hanasaki, N., Pokhrel, Y., Boulange, J.E.S., Burek, P. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6390-8487, Gosling, S.N., Grillakis, M., et al. (2021). A quantitative evaluation of the issue of drought definition: a source of disagreement in future drought assessments. Environmental Research Letters 16 (10) e104001. 10.1088/1748-9326/ac2348.

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Droughts are anticipated to intensify in many parts of the world due to climate change. However, the issue of drought definition, namely the diversity of drought indices, makes it difficult to compare drought assessments. This issue is widely known, but its relative importance has never been quantitatively evaluated in comparison to other sources of uncertainty. Here, encompassing three drought categories (meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological droughts) with four temporal scales of interest, we evaluated changes in the drought frequency using multi-model and multi-scenario simulations to identify areas where the definition issue could result in pronounced uncertainties and to what extent. We investigated the disagreement in the signs of changes between drought definitions and decomposed the variance into four main factors: drought definitions, greenhouse gas concentration scenarios, global climate models, and global water models, as well as their interactions. The results show that models were the primary sources of variance over 82% of the global land area. On the other hand, the drought definition was the dominant source of variance in the remaining 17%, especially in parts of northern high-latitudes. Our results highlight specific regions where differences in drought definitions result in a large spread among projections, including areas showing opposite signs of significant changes. At a global scale, 7% of the variance resulted independently from the definition issue, and that value increased to 44% when 1st and 2nd order interactions were considered. The quantitative results suggest that by clarifying hydrological processes or sectors of interest, one could avoid these uncertainties in drought assessments to obtain a clearer picture of future drought change.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Water Security (WAT)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Michaela Rossini
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2021 07:54
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2021 07:54
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/17495

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