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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 27 Mar 2019

Research article | 27 Mar 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Understanding the potential of climate teleconnections to project future groundwater drought

William Rust1, Ian Holman1, John Bloomfield2, Mark Cuthbert3, and Ron Corstanje4 William Rust et al.
  • 1Cranfield Water Science Institute (CWSI), Cranfield University, Bedford MK43 0AL
  • 2British Geological Survey, Wallingford, OX10 8ED
  • 3School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
  • 4Centre for Environment and Agricultural Informatics, Cranfield University, Bedford MK43 0AL

Abstract. Predicting the next major drought is of paramount interest to water managers, globally. Estimating the onset of groundwater drought is of particular importance, as groundwater resources are often assumed to be more resilient when surface water resources begin to fail. A potential source of long-term forecasting is offered by possible periodic controls on groundwater level via teleconnections with oscillatory ocean-atmosphere systems. However, relationships between large-scale climate systems and regional to local-scale rainfall, ET and groundwater are often complex and non-linear so that the influence of long-term climate cycles on groundwater drought remains poorly understood. Furthermore it is currently unknown whether the absolute contribution of multi-annual climate variability to total groundwater storage is significant. This study assesses the extent to which inter-annual variability in groundwater can be used to indicate the timing of groundwater droughts in the UK. Continuous wavelet transforms show how repeating teleconnection-driven 7-year and 16–32 year cycles in the majority of groundwater sites from all the UK's major aquifers can systematically control the recurrence of groundwater drought; and we provide evidence that these periodic modes are driven by teleconnections. Wavelet reconstructions demonstrate that multi-annual periodicities of the North Atlantic Oscillation, known to drive North Atlantic meteorology, comprise up to 40 % of the total groundwater storage variability. Furthermore, the majority of UK recorded droughts in recent history coincide with a minima phase in the 7-year NAO-driven cycles in groundwater level, allowing the estimation of future drought occurrences on a multi-annual timescale. Long-range groundwater drought forecasts via climate teleconnections present transformational opportunities to drought prediction and its management across the North Atlantic region.

William Rust et al.
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William Rust et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In this paper we show that major groundwater resources in the UK, many of which are used for drinking water, exhibit strong multi-year cycles. These cycles can account for up to 40 % of total groundwater level variance. Additionally we show that these cycles align with wide-spread groundwater droughts in recent history. By measuring the timescales of these recurring patterns, we estimate the onset of future groundwater droughts in the UK, allowing for improved water resource management.
In this paper we show that major groundwater resources in the UK, many of which are used for...