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Summer Moisture Variability across Europe

G. van der SchrierClimatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom, and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, Netherlands

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K. R. BriffaClimatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

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P. D. JonesClimatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

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T. J. OsbornClimatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Maps of monthly self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index (SC-PDSI) have been calculated for the period of 1901–2002 for Europe (35°–70°N, 10°W–60°E) with a spatial resolution of 0.5° × 0.5°. The recently introduced SC-PDSI is a convenient means of describing the spatial and temporal variability of moisture availability and is based on the more common Palmer Drought Severity Index. The SC-PDSI improves upon the PDSI by maintaining consistent behavior of the index over diverse climatological regions. This makes spatial comparisons of SC-PDSI values on continental scales more meaningful.

Over the region as a whole, the mid-1940s to early 1950s stand out as a persistent and exceptionally dry period, whereas the mid-1910s and late 1970s to early 1980s were very wet. The driest and wettest summers on record, in terms of the amplitude of the index averaged over Europe, were 1947 and 1915, respectively, while the years 1921 and 1981 saw over 11% and over 7% of Europe suffering from extreme dry or wet conditions, respectively.

Trends in summer moisture availability over Europe for the 1901–2002 period fail to be statistically significant, both in terms of spatial means of the drought index and in the area affected by drought. Moreover, evidence for widespread and unusual drying in European regions over the last few decades is not supported by the current work.

Corresponding author address: G. van der Schrier, Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR47TJ, United Kingdom. Email: g.schrier@uea.ac.uk

Abstract

Maps of monthly self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index (SC-PDSI) have been calculated for the period of 1901–2002 for Europe (35°–70°N, 10°W–60°E) with a spatial resolution of 0.5° × 0.5°. The recently introduced SC-PDSI is a convenient means of describing the spatial and temporal variability of moisture availability and is based on the more common Palmer Drought Severity Index. The SC-PDSI improves upon the PDSI by maintaining consistent behavior of the index over diverse climatological regions. This makes spatial comparisons of SC-PDSI values on continental scales more meaningful.

Over the region as a whole, the mid-1940s to early 1950s stand out as a persistent and exceptionally dry period, whereas the mid-1910s and late 1970s to early 1980s were very wet. The driest and wettest summers on record, in terms of the amplitude of the index averaged over Europe, were 1947 and 1915, respectively, while the years 1921 and 1981 saw over 11% and over 7% of Europe suffering from extreme dry or wet conditions, respectively.

Trends in summer moisture availability over Europe for the 1901–2002 period fail to be statistically significant, both in terms of spatial means of the drought index and in the area affected by drought. Moreover, evidence for widespread and unusual drying in European regions over the last few decades is not supported by the current work.

Corresponding author address: G. van der Schrier, Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR47TJ, United Kingdom. Email: g.schrier@uea.ac.uk

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