Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-583
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-583

  28 Dec 2020

28 Dec 2020

Review status: this discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

Ambiguous agricultural drought: characterising soil moisture and vegetation droughts in Europe from earth observation

Theresa C. van Hateren1,2, Marco Chini1, Patrick Matgen1, and Adriaan J. Teuling2 Theresa C. van Hateren et al.
  • 1Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Department of Environmental Research and Innovation, Esch-sur-Alzette, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg
  • 2Wageningen University and Research, Department of Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Abstract. Climate change will likely lead to more regular and more severe drought events in the near future, with large impacts on agriculture, especially during long-lasting precipitation deficits or heat waves. This study focuses on agricultural droughts, which are generally defined as soil moisture deficits so severe, that vegetation is negatively impacted. However, during short soil moisture drought events, vegetation is not always negatively affected, and sometimes even thrives under these conditions. Because of this duality in agricultural drought impacts, the use of the term agricultural droughts is ambiguous. Here we show that, in major European droughts over the past two decades, clear asynchronies and discrepancies occur between soil moisture and vegetation anomalies. A clear delay is visible between the onset of soil moisture drought and vegetation drought, and correlation between the two types of drought generally peaks at the end of the growing season. This behaviour seems to be different in droughts at lower latitudes, where correlations peak earlier in the season, likely due to water limited conditions occurring much earlier there. Moreover, results indicate that in some cases, vegetation can show a positive anomaly, even when soil moisture anomalies are negative. As a result, the use of the term agricultural drought could lead to misclassification of drought events and false drought alarms depending on whether vegetation or soil moisture is used to quantify the drought. We argue that it is necessary to make a distinction between soil moisture drought and anomalies in vegetation.

Theresa C. van Hateren et al.

 
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Status: closed
Status: closed
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Theresa C. van Hateren et al.

Theresa C. van Hateren et al.

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Short summary
Agricultural droughts occur when the water content of the soil diminishes to such a level that vegetation is negatively impacted. Here we show that, although they are classified as the same type of drought, substantial differences between soil moisture and vegetation droughts exist. This duality is not included in the term agricultural drought, and thus is a potential issue in drought research. We argue that a distinction should be made between soil moisture and vegetation drought events.