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Megadroughts in the Common Era and the Anthropocene


Cook, BI and Smerdon, JE and Cook, ER and Williams, AP and Anchukaitis, KJ and Mankin, JS and Allen, K and Andreu-Hayles, L and Ault, TR and Belmecheri, S and Coats, S and Coulthard, B and Fosu, B and Grierson, P and Griffin, D and Herrera, DA and Ionita, M and Lehner, F and Leland, C and Marvel, K and Morales, MS and Mishra, V and Ngoma, J and Nguyen, HTT and O Donnell, A and Palmer, J and Rao, MP and Rodriguez-Caton, M and Seager, R and Stahle, DW and Stevenson, S and Thapa, UK and Varuolo-Clarke, AM and Wise, EK, Megadroughts in the Common Era and the Anthropocene, Nature Reviews. Earth & Environment, 3 pp. 741-757. ISSN 2662-138X (2022) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2022, This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply

DOI: doi:10.1038/s43017-022-00329-1


Exceptional drought events, known as megadroughts, have occurred on every continent outside Antarctica over the past ~2,000 years, causing major ecological and societal disturbances. In this Review, we discuss shared causes and features of Common Era (Year 1–present) and future megadroughts. Decadal variations in sea surface temperatures are the primary driver of megadroughts, with secondary contributions from radiative forcing and land–atmosphere interactions. Anthropogenic climate change has intensified ongoing megadroughts in south-western North America and across Chile and Argentina. Future megadroughts will be substantially warmer than past events, with this warming driving projected increases in megadrought risk and severity across many regions, including western North America, Central America, Europe and the Mediterranean, extratropical South America, and Australia. However, several knowledge gaps currently undermine confidence in understanding past and future megadroughts. These gaps include a paucity of high-resolution palaeoclimate information over Africa, tropical South America and other regions; incomplete representations of internal variability and land surface processes in climate models; and the undetermined capacity of water-resource management systems to mitigate megadrought impacts. Addressing these deficiencies will be crucial for increasing confidence in projections of future megadrought risk and for resiliency planning.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:megadrought, drought atlases, models, Common Era
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Palaeoclimatology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Allen, K (Dr Kathy Allen)
ID Code:153944
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (FT200100102)
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2022-10-17
Last Modified:2023-01-16

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