"Understanding past droughts to inform decision-making in future"

Historic Droughts Symposium AgendaOn 22nd March 2016, a public symposium was hosted by the Historic Droughts project at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Wallingford. The aim of the day was to foster discussion on current scientific and decision-maker perspectives on the use of historical drought information in contemporary drought management, under the broad theme “Understanding past droughts to inform decision-making in future”. The event was very well attended, with over 100 delegates from a diversity of backgrounds, including academics, government and policymakers, regulators and consultants, a wide cross-section of the water industry and representatives from a range of economic sectors (agriculture, horticulture, power generation, etc.).

The agenda for the day can be found here

The first session invited research perspectives from the academics on the advisory panel of the Historic Droughts project. This included four international perspectives: a broad view of drought impacts and management across Europe (Henny van Lanen, Wageningen University); an overview of drought physical processes and management issues in Spain (Sergio Vicente-Serrano, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología); an assessment of current practice in using historical drought information in the USA (Cody Knutson, National Drought Mitigation Center); and a case study of a reconstruction of past hydrometeorological droughts, extending back to 1871, from France (Eric Sauquet, IRSTEA). The final perspective came from the UK, and gave a very long-term view of drought and other weather extremes based on documentary evidence (Georgina Endfield, University of Nottingham).

The second session then invited perspectives from stakeholders involved in drought management, drawn from the project’s stakeholder advisory panel, who presented views on UK drought impacts and management frameworks, and stakeholder needs for historical drought information. This included views from two environmental regulators responsible for drought management in England and Scotland (Pauline Smith from the EA and Richard Gosling from SEPA), a representative from the agricultural sector (Mike Storey from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board), a water company (Stamatia Evangelidou from Anglian Water) and a view from consultancy (Colin Fenn, Hydro-Logic).

The final session showcased the Historic Droughts project and presented early project achievements. Jamie Hannaford (CEH) gave an overview of the project, before three presentations reflecting the diversity of activities within the project: preliminary hydrogeological drought reconstructions (Ben Marchant, BGS), an overview of work examining impacts of past droughts on agriculture (Ian Holman, Cranfield University) and a survey of some of the main themes emerging from the project’s work on recollections of past droughts through oral histories (Rebecca Pearce, University of Exeter).

Delegates at the Historic Droughts SymposiumDiscussions were held after each session and then at the end of the day. There was lively and stimulating discussion which provided thoughtful perspectives for the Historic Droughts project. A recurring theme was the challenges in actually using information from the past to inform management decisions: to what extent are past drought events useful given how much our socioeconomic situation, and drought management frameworks, have changed over time? And how much can we learn from past rainfall or river flow extremes in a non-stationary world? Valuable food for thought for researchers and practitioners engaged in this issue, and questions that are at the core of the work being undertaken by Historic Droughts. 

A poster session was held, with posters on display during the coffee and lunch breaks, and in a drinks reception after the formal programme, where many attendees stayed on to continue discussions with the project team and visiting stakeholders. There were 20 Posters on a diversity of themes including: data, drought modelling/reconstruction, drought forecasting, drought identification, the impacts of drought and social narratives of drought. Half of the posters presented results from Historic Droughts, representing the wide range of disciplinary backgrounds within the project, including analyses of past droughts from hyrometeorological, agricultural, social and linguistic perspectives. There were also posters from the other projects in the Research Council’s Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme, IMPETUS, MaRIUS and DRY.  

Presentations and posters from the Symposium are listed and can be viewed below:


Session 1: Research perspectives

Drought impacts and management across Europe - Henny van Lanen (Wageningen University, Netherlands)

Drought processes in Spain: From historical droughts to current drought management in a warming scenario - Sergio Vicente-Serrano (Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, Spain)
Assessment and use of historical drought information in the United States - Cody Knutson (National Drought Mitigation Center, USA) 
Ensemble reconstruction of severe low flow events in France since 1871 - Eric Sauquet (IRSTEA, France) 
‘Burnt up beyond redemption’ - archival investigations of the social and cultural implications of historic droughts in the UK - Georgina Endfield (University of Nottingham)
Session 2: Decision-maker perspectives
How bad will it get? What the EA would really like to know about drought - Pauline Smith (Environment Agency) 
Scotland’s Water Scarcity Plan: The role of historic drought analysis in developing triggers for water management actions - Richard Gosling (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) 
Drought - agriculture and industry responses - Mike Storey (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) 
Deriving drought resilient futures - Colin Fenn (CIWEM / Hydro-Logic / WWF)
Investment decisions to improve drought resilience - a water company perspective - Stamatia Evangelidou (Anglian Water) 
Session 3: The Historic Droughts project
Historic Droughts: A systems-based study of drivers, impacts and their interactions - Jamie Hannaford (CEH) 
Progress with an inventory of UK groundwater droughts - Ben Marchant (BGS) 
15 years of agricultural abstraction and the 2011-2012 drought - Ian Holman (Cranfield University) 
Recurring themes in historic droughts - Rebecca Pearce (University of Exeter) 


Identifying historic streamflow droughts using standardised indicators - Lucy Barker (CEH) 
Regional variation in groundwater droughts - John Bloomfield (BGS) 
Building resilience to drought impacts on water supplies: a comparison of approaches in Europe, the USA, and Australia - Kevin Collins (Open University) 
What do British newspapers mean when they talk about droughts? - Carmen Dayrell (Lancaster University) 
The effect of land surface hydrological process representation on drought prediction - Azin Howells (University of Reading) 
The application of a drought reconstruction in water resource management - Neil Macdonald (University of Liverpool)
Groundwater drought forecasting - Majdi Mansour (BGS)
Recovery of historical climate records to support analysis of past drought - Mark McCarthy (Met Office) 
DRY (Drought Risk and You): Developing a drought narrative resource in a multi-stakeholder decision-making utility for drought risk management - Lindsey McEwen (University of the West of England) 
Characterising groundwater droughts, trends in duration and intensity at two sites - Andrew McKenzie (BGS)  
Description of groundwater droughts in the UK: 1890 to 2015 - Andrew McKenzie (BGS) 
Systematic assessment of drought termination in observed and reconstructed records - Simon Parry (CEH) 
Soundbites from the Historic Droughts archive - Rebecca Pearce (University of Exeter)
Assessing historic drought impacts on UK irrigators: A growers survey - Lola Rey (Cranfield University) 
Seasonal UK drought forecasting using statistical methods - Doug Richardson (University of Newcastle) 
The creeping paralysis of drought: Drought management in the Rio Guadalhorce basin, Andalucia - Carolyn Roberts (Knowledge Transfer Network) 
National-scale hydrological modelling within MaRIUS: preliminary results on historic drought identification and trend analyses (1912-2012) - Ali Rudd (CEH)
Reconstructing 20th century streamflow droughts across Great Britain - Katie Smith (CEH)
On the use of different data sources for drought analysis in cold climates - Anne van Loon (University of Birmingham) 

Simulation of historic drought-induced tree mortality: a preliminary study in Thames catchment, UK - Jianjun Yu (University of Oxford)