IMPETUS: Improving Predictions of Drought for User Decision-Making

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology

Abstract

Droughts have severe impacts on societies, economies, agriculture and ecosystems. The 1975-76 UK drought had a devastating effect on the UK economy causing an estimated £3,500M loss to agriculture, £700M of subsidence damage to buildings and a £400M cost to the water industry (present day figures adjusted for inflation). Forward planning is critical for managing the impacts of drought, since early action enables stakeholders, such as public water supply and agricultural companies, to curb demand and to effectively manage diminishing water resources. Improved forecasts on drought management (monthly to seasonal) and planning timescales (seasonal to decadal) would be exceptionally valuable for effective drought management and for minimising the negative impacts of droughts.

Droughts are complex events, with impacts dependent on meteorological, hydrological and land surface factors as well as on water demand and management. Consequently, drought forecasting has many components: forecasting meteorological drought (deficit of rainfall), agricultural drought (soil moisture deficit) and hydrological drought (decline in surface water and groundwater), forecasting the consequences of drought for water availability and forecasting the effects of drought management. All of these are uncertain and any improvement in decision-making needs to consider all aspects of the forecast process. IMPETUS focuses on meteorological and hydrological forecasting linked to innovative methods for forecasting local domestic water demand during drought.

IMPETUS is an interdisciplinary proposal that brings together scientists from the meteorological, land surface, surface water and groundwater communities and social scientists from the water demand and forecast usability communities. The project involves internationally-leading scientists and social scientist from three NERC Research Centres (NCAS, BGS and CEH), four leading universities (Oxford, Reading, Newcastle, and Southampton), the Metfice and ECMWF. IMPETUS aims to improve the forecasting of UK drought on monthly to decadal timescales, which will lead to the development of improved decision-making processes. This will be achieved by improving meteorological, hydrological and water demand forecasts and how they are combined to produce drought forecasts. This will be done in conjunction with stakeholders to ensure that drought forecasts are relevant for decision making. IMPETUS addresses WP2 (Forecasting Drought) of the UK Droughts and Water Scarcity call.

We envisage IMPETUS producing a range of high-impact publications in meteorology, hydrology, hydro-meteorological forecasting, water demand modelling and the usability of drought forecasts. The outcomes from IMPETUS will also benefit a wide range of stakeholders. These include informing the Environment Agency (EA) on the ability of the hydrological models used by EA for water resource management to represent drought, and furthering the understanding that underpins key operational projects, including the Hydrological Outlooks project. IMPETUS outcomes will also benefit the Met Office and ECMWF through an improved understanding of the drivers of meteorological drought and recommendations for improving the representation of drought in operational meteorological forecast systems and climate models.

Finally, IMPETUS aims to improve the forecasting of drought on monthly to decadal timescales, which will enable stakeholders to better curb demand and more effectively manage diminishing water resources. In particular, IMPETUS aims to engage stakeholders and assess their needs for drought forecast information, co-producing drought metrics from forecasts to ensure that they support real-world decision-making. Particular examples of this have already been identified through initial discussions with stakeholders including precipitation forecasts for Thames Water and soil moisture forecasts for the agricultural sector.

Planned Impact

The overarching aim of IMPETUS is to improve the forecasting of UK drought on monthly to decadal timescales, which will lead to the development of improved decision-making processes. Given the substantial socioeconomic impacts of drought in the UK, there is a broad range of non-academic stakeholders who will be benefit from the outcomes of IMPETUS:

1. The Met Office and ECMWF: IMPETUS outcomes will benefit the UK operational meteorological forecasting centres (i.e. the Met Office and ECMWF) by: i) the improved understanding of the drivers of meteorological drought and their representation in climate models and operational meteorological seasonal and decadal forecasting systems, ii) an evaluation of operational forecasting systems for drought, iii) recommendations for improved forecasts systems and climate models (e.g. recommendations for the resolution of climate models) and iv) improved understanding of how to produce hydro-meteorological forecasts for UK drought.

2. The Environment Agency: Part of the EA's role is to protect the environment by minimising the impact of droughts while ensure adequate public water supply. IMPETUS will benefit the EA by: i) providing insight into how to improve communication and facilitate the uptake of drought forecasts, ii) addressing the degree of model complexity appropriate to the forecasting of the drought evolution across different timescales, iii) providing new methods to combine hydro-meteorological information in drought forecasting systems and iv) providing guidance on how to integrate uncertain drought forecasts into decision-making process.

3. End-users of drought forecasts: Many economic sectors are sensitive to the impacts of UK drought including public water supply, agricultural, retail, finance and health. IMPETUS aims to improve the forecasting of drought on monthly to decadal timescales, which will enable stakeholders to better curb demand and more effectively manage diminishing water resources. In particular, IMPETUS aims to engage stakeholders and assess their needs for drought forecast information, co-producing drought metrics from forecasts to ensure that they support real-world decision-making. Initial discussions with stakeholders have already led to decision-relevant metrics being identified (e.g. one month and 3-month ahead precipitation over the Southeast England for Thames Water; one-month and 3-month ahead soil moisture deficit for drought planning in the agriculture sector).

4. Government departments (DEFRA, DECC): Policy-makers and government departments (in particular, DECC and DEFRA) are keen to reduce the negative socioeconomic impacts of drought, which may be possible if mitigation measures are enacted with enough warning. IMPETUS will benefit policy-makers by providing improved evidence-based guidance on the current capability to forecast UK drought.

5. Wider public interest: UK drought is an issue of intense interest to the wider general public (e.g. public discussion of the dry UK winter and spring in 2012; recurring public discussion about the 1975-76 UK drought). Through public engagement (via the project website, a Royal Society exhibition, public engagement material and media engagement - see impacts plans for more details) we will improve public understanding of the drivers of drought and our current capability to forecast UK drought.

Publications

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Dong B (2016) The 2015 European Heat Wave in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

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MacLeod D (2016) Evaluating uncertainty in estimates of soil moisture memory with a reverse ensemble approach in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions

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Ossó A (2018) Observational evidence of European summer weather patterns predictable from spring. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

 
Description The aim of IMPETUS is to improve forecasts of UK droughts on monthly to decadal timescales. There has been recent advances in our ability to forecast the wintertime atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic a season ahead. Research in IMPETUS has i) developed new methods to use the improved skill in seasonal forecasts to develop forecasts of wintertime rainfall over the UK ii) improved wintertime seasonal forecasts by combining forecasts from different models and iii) shown that there is the potential for skill in summer forecasts of UK rainfall. The usefulness of these forecasts for managing water resources and agriculture is currently being studied.
Exploitation Route One of the aims of IMPETUS is to improve the uptake of seasonal forecasting in the UK's Water Sector and Agricultural Sector.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

 
Description The methods from Osso et al. 2018 are being developed by an SME (Weatherlogistics) to provide agricultural seasonal forecast products.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
 
Description Collaboraion with Juelich Forzungs Zentrum, Germany (as part of GEWEX) to improve drought prediction via improved soil maps and soil hydraulic and thermal parameterisations. 
Organisation Julich Research Centre
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Following discussions between GEWEX and the soil and critical zone communities regarding how to improve interactions and integration of soil and subsurface processes in present climate models and other activities of GEWEX, a planning workshop aimed at designing and prioritizing interactions took place in June 28-30, 2016 in Leipzig. The GEWEX-SoilWat first planning workshop attracted 25-30 participants for 2 days of presentations and discussions. Some of the main outcomes of the planning workshop were: (1) Evaluation of pedotransfer functions and related functional descriptions for calculation of hydraulic and thermal soil properties in global climate and hydrological models. A joint GEWEX- ISMC project, led by Harry Vereecken and Anne Verhoef This initiative aims to provide an in-depth survey regarding how key soil physical processes (water and heat flow) are represented in climate and hydrological models (with a focus on LSMIP3 models) with emphasis on revisiting the pedotransfer functions used to convert soil properties (e.g. texture) into hydraulic and thermal parameters. Activities are underway to use a new and highly resolved global soil map (SoilGrids) to revise key hydrologic transfer function models and to analyze the impact on predicted hydraulic and thermal properties.
Collaborator Contribution NA
Impact NA
Start Year 2016
 
Description UK Met Office Soil Moisture Stress and Vegetation Process Evaluation Group 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Sarojini, Verhoef, Vidale member of UK Met Office Soil Moisture Stress and Vegetation Process Evaluation Group (PEG). Engagement with weather forecast and climate modellers. Aim of this PEG is to improve drought prediction by the JULES land surface model and related weather forecast & climate models and products Monthly meetings, aim of at least 1 publication. Impact: improved UK modelling capabilities
Collaborator Contribution NA
Impact NA
Start Year 2016
 
Description Engagment with SME (Weatherlogistics) on the provision of seasonal forecast informations to the Agricultural sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Discussion with an SME (Weatherlogistics) who provide seasonal forecast information to the Agricultural sector (farming, agroeconomists, etc...). Weatherlogistics will try and make use of the methods from Osso et al. 2018 to develop new products.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description IMPETUS stakeholder workshops (joint with the DRIVER project) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Stakeholder workshop held for Water Companies, the EA and other water resource managers on indicators and early warning for drought in the UK. A series of one-day workshops have elicited a range of views from stakeholders to guide the research activity in IMPETUS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
 
Description Media engagment during the summer heatwave of 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Commentary and quotes on the impact of climate change and the increased likelihood of the summer heatwave of 2018. Quotes used in The Sun, The Daily Star, The Guardian, The Independent, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail and local newspapers.

In addition, an article in The Conversation was published by Prof Shaffrey on the impact of climate change on the hot and dry weather of Summer 2018.

The quotes on the impact of climate change on the front page of The Sun received further media commentary on The Guardian and CarbonBrief.org on whether attitudes to climate change were changing in the tabloid press.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/01/heatwave-climate-denial-summer-2018-sceptics