Global Flash Droughts: A Looming Threat, Warns New Study

“New Study Reveals Alarming Global Projections of Flash Droughts in Warming Climate”
Global Flash Droughts: A Looming Threat, Warns New Study

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Oklahoma has indicated that flash droughts are likely to occur on a global scale. The study, entitled β€˜Global projections of flash drought show increased risk in warming climate’, was published in Nature Communications Earth & Environment. The research showed that the risk of flash droughts, which are unexpected droughts that can cause significant damage to agricultural and ecological systems, is set to rise globally. The largest increases are expected to occur in North America and Europe. Jordan Christian, lead author of the study, explained that β€œin this study, projected changes in flash drought frequency and cropland risk from flash drought are quantified using global climate model simulations. We find that flash drought occurrence is expected to increase globally among all scenarios, with the sharpest increases seen in scenarios with higher radiative forcing and greater fossil fuel usage.”

The study indicated that Europe is likely to experience the largest increase in the most extreme emissions scenario explored by researchers, with a projected increase in annual flash drought risk of between 32% and 53%. This represents a 1.7 times increase in annual flash drought risk. According to the same Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) models, a 1.5 times increase in the annual risk of flash droughts over croplands across North America is predicted by the year 2100, from the baseline of a 32% yearly risk in 2015 to 49% in 2100.

The changing climate is expected to increase severe weather events from storms, flash flooding, flash droughts and more. The impacts of droughts in Europe are being seen currently, with Spain and Portugal recently jointly asking the European Commission to adopt urgent drought measures under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) crisis reserve fund. Researchers have warned that β€œas global population increases and the demand for agriculture grows, changes in the frequency of flash drought will further strain food security in the future. Indeed, flash drought creates additional challenges by reducing the access to our fundamental needs for food and water on timescales much faster than slower-developing, conventional drought.”

The study has revealed agricultural regions across the globe that may be most susceptible to more frequent and intense flash droughts in a changing climate and therefore have the greatest exposure to flash drought impacts to agricultural production. Professor Jeffrey Basara, a co-author of the study, has emphasised that the research continues to emphasise that agricultural products will face increasing risks associated with water availability due to the β€œrapid development of drought”. He added that β€œas a result, socioeconomic pressures associated with food production, including higher prices and social unrest, will also increase when crop losses occur due to flash drought.”