Simulation of Major Historical Droughts and their Large-Scale Temporal Variability


Droughts are among the costliest and widespread of natural disasters.  Soil moisture is a useful indicator of drought, providing an estimate of water from the balance of precipitation, evaporation and runoff.  In a recent paper, DOE-sponsored researchers used a combined physically based terrestrial hydrologic model and a probabilistic approach to predict world-wide droughts for the time period 1950-2000.  Their analysis revealed connections of the variation of large-scale drought with sea surface temperatures at interannual and possibly decadal time scales.  This study accurately predicted well known droughts such as the 1980s drought in the Sahel region of Africa and revealed many severe droughts in the high latitudes that are relatively under-monitored and have received relatively little attention in the scientific and popular literature.


J. Sheffield, Andreadis, K.M., Wood, E.F., and Lettenmaier, D.P., 2009: Global and Continental Drought in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century: Severity-Area-Duration Analysis and Temporal Variability of Large-Scale Events. J. Climate, 22, 1962-1981.