Skip to main content


Title: The impact of climate change on severe droughts: Major droughts in England and Wales from 1800 and evidence of impact of Impact
Author: G.A. Cole
Author: Environment Agency
Document Type: Monograph
Annotation: Environment Agency Project ID:EAPRJOUT_1509, Representation ID: 527, Object ID: 2656
The aim of this project was to assess the implications of severe droughts for the water resources of England and Wales, based on case studies from the Anglian and North West Regions. The report catalogues drought events and provides documentary evidence of their impact in the UK since 1800. It includes a preliminary assessment of relative severity, based on a range of hydro-meteorological data, including extended rainfall, river-flow and groundwater time series, an aridity index, and rainfall and runoff deficiencies over various time periods. The report also examines the rather patchy documentary evidence for drought pre-1800. It is clear that throughout the historical record, drought has been a recurring feature of the UK climate, with recent drought events by no means exceptional in terms of their intensity or duration. A notable feature is the repeated tendency for dry years to cluster together, which results in multi-year droughts that contain shorter more intense periods. The extended drought periods from 1780-1790, 1798-1808, 1854- 1860, 1890-1909, 1990-1992, 1995-1997 are all evidence of this. As many of these protracted clusters predate most observed river flow and groundwater time series, there is a clear danger that contemporary data sets (post 1950) may be unrepresentative of the full historical series. In particular, they do not capture the hydrological impact of the sequences of dry winters that are a feature of the pre- 1920 rainfall series. Thus, drought risk (particularly in relation to protracted events) may be underestimated, although recent advances in drought mitigation, planning and infrastructure mean that many regions of the UK are now better able to cope with extended rainfall deficiencies than they were in the past.
Publisher: Environment Agency
Subject Keywords: Climate changeDroughtImpact assessmentRiversGroundwaterWater levelsRainfall
Extent: 54
Total file downloads: 304

Download PDF    Display PDF in separate tab