Drought severely impacts societies and ecosystems around the world. Traditionally, drought research has focused solely on natural processes underlying drought development, defining climate variability as only driver of drought. Since in many regions rivers are altered and groundwater levels have decreased dramatically due to groundwater abstraction, human influences can no longer be neglected and should be included as additional driver of drought. Due to complex feedbacks between drought and water abstraction, the effects of human influence and climate cannot simply be added; a major scientific challenge lies in finding the relative effect of both. Therefore, the objective of this project is quantifying the relative importance of climatic and human drivers of hydrological drought at the global scale. The project consists of four steps, in which the drivers of drought will be studied in case studies, the relationship of drought with physical and socio-economic factors will be determined and results will be extrapolated to the global scale, via a validation step in data-rich areas. The final outcome is a spatio-temporal assessment of the relative importance of climate-induced vs. human-induced drought visualised in a global map, which will be a transformative step in our scientific understanding of drought and a major contribution to international environmental programmes. (funded by NWO – Rubicon)

Regular updates of this project can be found here.