Enhancing drought monitoring and early warning for the UK through stakeholder co-enquiries

Hannaford, Jamie; Collins, Kevin; Haines, Sophie and Barker, Lucy (2019). Enhancing drought monitoring and early warning for the UK through stakeholder co-enquiries. Weather, Climate, and Society, 11(1) pp. 49–63.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1175/WCAS-D-18-0042.1


Drought is widely written about as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon, with complexity arising not just from biophysical drivers, but also human understanding and experiences of drought and its impacts. This has led to a proliferation of different drought definitions and indicators, creating a challenge for the design of drought monitoring and early warning (MEW) systems, which are a key component of drought preparedness. Here, we report on social learning workshops conducted in the UK aimed at improving the design and operation of drought MEW systems, as part of a wider international project including parallel events in the USA and Australia. We highlight key themes for MEW design and use: ‘types’ of droughts; indicators and impacts; uncertainty; capacity and decision-making; communications; and governance. We shed light on the complexity of drought through the multiple framings of the problem by different actors, and how this influences their needs for MEW. Our findings suggest that MEW systems need to embrace this complexity and strive for consistent messaging while also tailoring information for a wide range of audiences in terms of the drought characteristics, temporal and spatial scales, and impacts that are important for their particular decision-making processes. We end with recommendations to facilitate this approach.

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