Journal Highlights

How Drought Plays Out

Research Spotlight—

Humans are less likely to deplete groundwater when rainfall varies between years.

Drought takes many forms. There’s meteorological drought, in which snow and rainfall are abnormally scarce. There’s hydrologic drought, in which rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers draw down or dry up; typically, a hydrologic drought is declared if water levels drop below the 25th percentile in a given region. And there’s agricultural and socioeconomic drought, which occurs when rain, surface water, and groundwater are not sufficient to sustain crops or other human activities. Now, a new study shows how different patterns of rainfall drive hydrologic drought when combined with human water use, such as groundwater pumping.

Meteorological droughts drive hydrologic droughts, but humans exacerbate water scarcity, too, by extracting water from rivers and underground aquifers faster than it can be replenished. To explore how humans and climate interact to impact drought conditions, Apurv et al. built a virtual watershed that included some fixed properties, such as silty loam soil, but allowed climate and human properties—like how much rain fell at different times of the year and how much water people removed from reservoirs and aquifers—to change...more

-- Emily Underwood, Freelance Writer,