Introduction

Drought is natural hazard that occurs in both high and low rainfall areas of Europe and can develop over short periods (weeks or months) or longer periods (seasons, years or even decades). Over the last decades, Europe was regularly hit hard by drought. Droughts are complex large-scale phenomena involving numerous interacting climate processes and various land-atmosphere feedbacks. Different stores (persistence) in river basins lead to a complicated propagation of the climate signal into the water system. Although progress is made, the phenomena are still not well understood, which makes it difficult to adequately characterize, monitor and forecast drought.

Droughts do not directly cause fatalities in Europe, but they have large socio-economic and environmental impacts affecting many sectors. These multi-facetted impacts happen both in water-stressed areas of Southern EU Member States, but also in countries where water availability has never before been a major concern. Data from 2000-2006 show that each year, on average 15% of the EU total area and 17% of the EU total population have suffered from the impact of droughts. Drought is recurrent phenomenon in Europe that affects vast areas and millions of people. The total cost of droughts over the past 30 years amounts to 100 billion Euros.

Climate change projections for Europe indicate that drought is likely to become more frequent and more severe due to the increased likelihood of warmer Northern winters and hotter Mediterranean summers, together with decreases in precipitation and increases in evaporation demand. Hence, there is an urgent need to improve drought preparedness through measures that reduce vulnerability to drought and the risks they pose for Europe, in particular considering the uncertain future.

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Project objectives

  • Drought as a natural hazard, incl. climate drivers, drought generating processes and occurrences
  • Environmental and socio-economic impacts
  • Vulnerabilities, risks and policy responses, incl. the further development of drought management plans in support of EU and other international policies