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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
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-311
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-311
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 26 Jun 2019

Research article | 26 Jun 2019

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

Catchment-scale drought: capturing the whole drought cycle using multiple indicators

Abraham J. Gibson1, Danielle C. Verdon-Kidd1, Greg R. Hancock1, and Garry Willgoose2 Abraham J. Gibson et al.
  • 1School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Newcastle, Australia, Callaghan, New South Wales, 2308, Australia
  • 2School of Engineering, The University of Newcastle, Australia, Callaghan, New South Wales, 2308, Australia

Abstract. Global agricultural drought policy has shifted towards promoting drought preparedness and climate resilience in favor of disaster relief-based strategies. For this approach to be successful, drought predictability and methods for assessing the many aspects of drought need to be improved. Therefore, this study aims to bring together meteorological and hydrological measures of drought, along with vegetation and soil moisture data to assess how droughts begin, propagate and subsequently terminate for a catchment in eastern Australia. For the study area, thirteen meteorological drought periods persisting more than six months were identified over the last 100 years. During these, vegetation health, soil moisture and streamflow declined, however, all indicators recovered quickly post drought, with no evidence of extended impacts on the rainfall-runoff response, as has been observed elsewhere. Further, drought initiation and propagation were found to be tightly coupled to the combined state of large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate drivers (e.g. El Niño Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole and Southern Annular Mode), while termination is caused by persistent synoptic systems (e.g. low-pressure troughs). The combination of climatic factors, topography, soils and vegetation are believed to be what makes the study catchments more resilient to drought than others in eastern Australia. The study diversifies traditional approaches to studying droughts by quantifying catchment response to drought using a range of measures that could also be applied in other catchments globally. This is a key step towards improved drought management.

Abraham J. Gibson et al.
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Short summary
To be better prepared for drought, we need to be able to characterise how they begin, translate to on-ground impacts and how they end. We created a 100 year drought record for an area on the East Coast of Australia and compared this with soil moisture and vegetation data. Drought reduces vegetation and soil moisture, but recovery rates are different across different catchments. Our methods can be universally applied and show the need to develop area-specific data to inform drought management.
To be better prepared for drought, we need to be able to characterise how they begin, translate...
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