European drought trends
- Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitaetstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
Abstract. Recent climate projections suggest pronounced changes in European drought frequency. In the north, increased precipitation volumes are likely to reduce drought occurrence, whereas more frequent droughts are expected for southern Europe. To assess whether this pattern of changes in drought frequency can already be identified for the past decades, we analyse trends in a recently developed pan-European drought climatology that is based on the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). The index is derived on multiple time scales, ranging from 1 to 36 months, which allows the assessment of trends in both short term and multi-year droughts. Trends are quantified using the Theil-Sen trend estimator combined with an extension of the Mann–Kendal test (p < 0.05) that accounts for serial correlation. Field significance is assessed on the basis of techniques that control the false discovery rate in a multiple testing setting. The trend analysis indicates that changes in drought frequency are more pronounced on time scales of one year and longer. The analysis also reveals that there has been a tendency for decreased drought frequency in northern Europe in the past decades, whereas droughts have likely become more frequent in selected southern regions.