Wet and sry summers in Europe since 1750: evidence of increasing drought

KR Briffa, G van der Schrier, PD Jones

Moisture availability across Europe is calculated based on twenty-two stations that have long instrumental records for precipitation and
temperature. The metric used is the self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index (scPDSI) which is based on soil moisture content.
This quantity is calculated using a simplified water budget model, forced by historic records of precipitation and temperature data, where
the latter are used in a simple parametrization for potential evaporation.
The precipitation and temperature records are updated to include the
2003 summer and all but one records span at least 200 years, with the record for Kew going back to 1697.

The Kew record shows a significant clustering of dry summers in the most recent decade.
When all of the records are considered together, recent widespread drying is clearly apparent and highly significant in this long term context.

By substituting the 1961-1990 climatological monthly mean temperatures for the actual monthly means in the parameterization
for potential evaporation, an estimate is made of the direct effect of temperature on drought.
This analysis shows that a major influence on the trend toward drier summer conditions is the observed increase in temperatures.
This effect is particularly strong in central Europe.

Based on the twenty-two scPDSI records, a gridded scPDSI dataset covering a large part of Europe has been constructed and compared to a recent
high resolution scPDSI dataset spanning the 20th century only.
We again observe that a major cause for the large areal extent of summer drought in the last two decades is high temperatures.
Temperatures in the 12 months preceding and including the summer of 2003
explain an increase in the areas experiencing slightly dry (or worse) conditions of 11.1%.

Bibliographic data

KR Briffa, G van der Schrier, PD Jones. Wet and sry summers in Europe since 1750: evidence of increasing drought
Status: published, Journal: Int. J. Climatology, Volume: 29, Year: 2009, First page: 1894, Last page: 1905, doi: doi:10.1002/joc.1836