Long-term variability and trends in meteorological droughts in Western Europe (1851-2018)

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We analyzed long-term variability and trends in meteorological droughts across Western Europe using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). Precipitation data from 199 stations spanning the period 1851-2018 were employed, following homogenisation, to derive SPI-3 and SPI-12 series for each station, together with indices on drought duration and severity. Results reveal a general absence of statistically significant long-term trends in the study domain, with the exception of significant trends at some stations, generally covering short periods. The largest decreasing trends in SPI-3 (i.e. increasing drought conditions) were found for summer in the British and Irish Isles. In general, drought episodes experienced in the last two or three decades have precedents during the last 170 years, emphasising the importance of long records for assessing change. The main characteristic of drought variability in Western Europe is its strong spatial diversity, with regions exhibiting a homogeneous temporal evolution. Notably, the temporal variability of drought in Western Europe is more dominant than long-term trends. This suggests that long-term drought trends cannot be confirmed in Western Europe using precipitation records alone. This study provides a long-term regional assessment of drought variability in Western Europe, which can contribute to better understanding of regional climate change during the past two centuries.
© 2020 Royal Meteorological Society. This work was supported by the research projects PCIN2015-220 and CGL2017-82216-R financed by the Spanish Commission of Science and Technology and FEDER, IMDROFLOOD financed by the WaterWorks 2014 cofunded call of the European Commission, CROSSDRO financed by the AXIS (Assessment of Cross[X] - sectorial climate Impacts and pathways for Sustainable transformation) JPI-Climate co-funded call of the European Commission, INDECIS, which is part of ERA4CS, an ERA-NET initiated by JPI Climate, and funded by FORMAS (SE), DLR (DE), BMWFW (AT), IFD (DK), MINECO (ES), ANR (FR), FCT (PT) with co-funding by the European Union (Grant 690462), Irish Research Council COALESCE grant (COALESCE/2019/43). Dhais Peña-Angulo received a ‘Juan de la Cierva’ postdoctoral contract (FJCI-2017-33652 Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, MEC), Marco Turco has received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities through the project PREDFIRE (RTI2018-099711-J-I00). Our grateful thanks extend to Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera-(IPMA), Portugal, Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET), Spain, Deutscher Wetterdienst (Germany), Meteofrance (France), Met Office (UK), Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI), Netherlands, the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN), and the European Climate Assessment & Dataset (ECAD) for providing precipitation data used in this study.