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A Review of Drought in the Middle East and Southwest Asia

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  • 1 * Department of Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • | 3 Department of Geography, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  • | 4 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
  • | 5 Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia
  • | 6 ** Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California
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Abstract

The Middle East and southwest Asia are a region that is water stressed, societally vulnerable, and prone to severe droughts. Large-scale climate variability, particularly La Niña, appears to play an important role in regionwide droughts, including the two most severe of the last 50 years—1999–2001 and 2007/08—with implications for drought forecasting. Important dynamical factors include orography, thermodynamic influence on vertical motion, storm-track changes, and moisture transport. Vegetation in the region is strongly impacted by drought and may provide an important feedback mechanism. In future projections, drying of the eastern Mediterranean region is a robust feature, as are temperature increases throughout the region, which will affect evaporation and the timing and intensity of snowmelt. Vegetation feedbacks may become more important in a warming climate. There are a wide range of outstanding issues for understanding, monitoring, and predicting drought in the region, including dynamics of the regional storm track, the relative importance of the range of dynamical mechanisms related to drought, the regional coherence of drought, the relationship between synoptic-scale mechanisms and drought, the predictability of vegetation and crop yields, the stability of remote influences, data uncertainty, and the role of temperature. Development of a regional framework for cooperative work and dissemination of information and existing forecasts would speed understanding and make better use of available information.

Corresponding author address: Mathew Barlow, Department of Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, 1 University Ave., University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854. E-mail: mathew_barlow@uml.edu

This article is included in the GDIS Drought Worldwide Special Collection.

Abstract

The Middle East and southwest Asia are a region that is water stressed, societally vulnerable, and prone to severe droughts. Large-scale climate variability, particularly La Niña, appears to play an important role in regionwide droughts, including the two most severe of the last 50 years—1999–2001 and 2007/08—with implications for drought forecasting. Important dynamical factors include orography, thermodynamic influence on vertical motion, storm-track changes, and moisture transport. Vegetation in the region is strongly impacted by drought and may provide an important feedback mechanism. In future projections, drying of the eastern Mediterranean region is a robust feature, as are temperature increases throughout the region, which will affect evaporation and the timing and intensity of snowmelt. Vegetation feedbacks may become more important in a warming climate. There are a wide range of outstanding issues for understanding, monitoring, and predicting drought in the region, including dynamics of the regional storm track, the relative importance of the range of dynamical mechanisms related to drought, the regional coherence of drought, the relationship between synoptic-scale mechanisms and drought, the predictability of vegetation and crop yields, the stability of remote influences, data uncertainty, and the role of temperature. Development of a regional framework for cooperative work and dissemination of information and existing forecasts would speed understanding and make better use of available information.

Corresponding author address: Mathew Barlow, Department of Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, 1 University Ave., University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854. E-mail: mathew_barlow@uml.edu

This article is included in the GDIS Drought Worldwide Special Collection.

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