Evaluating Drought Intensification Rates with a Focus on Physical Climate Drivers

Authors: Connie Kaniewski*, Southern Illinois University, Trent Ford, Southern Illinois University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: flash drought, drought, soil moisture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The term “flash drought” has increasingly been a part of drought science lexicon over the last decade in response to rapidly intensifying drought events; ultimately to distinguish these extreme events from slower-developing droughts. The extensive flash drought research conducted in recent years is founded on the collective perception that flash droughts are physically distinct from slower-developing droughts, despite this assumption never being quantitatively evaluated. Additionally, flash drought studies have primarily focused on examining the drivers of these extreme events, and less so on how these drivers differ in the prevalence and/or magnitude versus slower-evolving drought events. Given the similarity of conditions and cross-scale interactions shown to be necessary for both flash droughts and slower-developing droughts, it is reasonable to question whether events previously identified as flash droughts – and drivers of such events – are indeed distinct from slower-developing droughts or if they are simply manifestations of more extreme environmental anomalies. Additionally, it is widely understood that certain droughts intensify more quickly than others; however, the factors controlling drought intensification rates across the U.S. are largely understudied. In response to these significant knowledge gaps, we assess the external, large-scale, and local factors that contribute to drought intensification rates across the contiguous United States, and determine the conditions both necessary and sufficient for rapid drought intensification to occur in various regions.

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