Researchers Propose the Concept of 'Anthropogenic Drought'

As climate change heightens the risk of intense drought periods, a new framework can help scientists better understand the interconnected causes and effects of drought.

May 10, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Drought

Anthony Quintano / Flickr

Although droughts "are more complex than mere shortages of precipitation or surface water," scientists have had few terms for describing and defining different droughts and their causes, writes Elizabeth Thompson for Eos.

"To address this deficiency, AghaKouchak et al. propose the idea of anthropogenic drought, which accounts for both natural variation and human actions. For instance, droughts are affected by local decisions about water and land use as well as by such global conditions as greenhouse gas levels and climate change. The authors suggest that scientists think of drought as a process with contributing factors, effects, and feedbacks rather than as simply a final product."

The proposed framework, says Thompson takes into account the "far-reaching and often unexpected effects, including damage to local ecosystems, social unrest, and economic loss" of droughts. "The researchers say that human activities and decisions as well as related feedbacks should be integrated into new models that include both water and energy balances to achieve reliable modeling of drought as a process. By understanding how droughts develop as processes, scientists will be able to more accurately predict droughts, they suggest, allowing decision-makers to respond appropriately and sustainably."

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 in Eos

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