Quantifying and Conveying the Risk of Prolonged Drought in Coming Decades


CESM is a fully-coupled, global climate model that provides state-of-the-art computer simulations of the Earth's past, present, and future climate states.

Lead CCASS Contact: Diana Liverman

Drought is expected to become increasingly prevalent in a warming world. In the future, natural hydroclimatic variability will be superimposed on continued human-driven changes to regional climate, with both long-term warming and regional drying likely to exacerbate droughts of the future. Among the greatest challenges of decadal prediction and climate change projection are the quantification of prolonged drought risk in vulnerable regions and the integration of knowledge about this risk into the decision-making processes of the many resource managers and other stakeholders who deal with drought. This project, led by PI and former UA Institute of the Environment director Jonathan Overpeck, and co-PI Diana Liverman, takes advantage of several resources, including simulations from a state-of-the-art Earth System Model (CESM), an expanding set of paleoclimate datasets from multiple proxies, and longstanding collaborations with stakeholders in the SW and Mexico with whom we can develop best practices in applying drought risk estimates to real-world problems. 

Related publications:

  • Ault, T.R., J.E. Cole, J.T. Overpeck, G.R. Pederson, and D.M. Meko, 2014.Assessing the risk of persistent drought using climate model simulations and paleoclimate data. Journal of Climate, 27: 7529-7549. http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00282.1
  • Udall, B., and J. Overpeck,  2017. The twenty-first century Colorado River hot drought and implications for the future, Water Resour. Res., 53, 2404–2418, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2016WR019638.  

Funding: National Science Foundation