Spatial patterns of European droughts under a moderate emission scenario
Abstract. Meteorological drought is generally defined as a prolonged deficiency of precipitation and is considered one of the most relevant natural hazards as the related impacts can involve many different sectors. In this study, we investigated the spatial patterns of European droughts for the periods 1981–2010, 2041–2070, and 2071–2100, focusing on the projections under a moderate emissions scenario. To do that, we used the outputs of the KNMI-RACMO2 model, which belongs to the A1B family and whose spatial resolution is 0.25° × 0.25°. By means of monthly precipitation and potential evapotranspiration (PET), we computed the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) and the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) at the 12-month accumulation scale. Thereafter, we separately obtained drought frequency, duration, severity, and intensity for the whole of Europe, excluding Iceland. According to both indicators, the spatial drought patterns are projected to follow what recently characterized Europe: southern Europe, who experienced many severe drought events in the last decades, is likely to be involved by longer, more frequent, severe, and intense droughts in the near future (2041–2070) and even more in the far future (2071–2100). This tendency is more evident using the SPEI, which also depends on temperature and consequently reflects the expected warming that will be highest for the Mediterranean area in Europe. On the other side, less severe and fewer drought events are likely to occur in northern Europe. This tendency is more evident using the SPI, because the precipitation increase is projected to outbalance the temperature (and PET) rise in particular in Scandinavia. Regarding the mid-latitudes, the SPEI-based analyses point at more frequent drought events, while the SPI-based ones point at less frequent events in these regions.