Drought termination: concept and characterisation

There are numerous anecdotal examples of drought terminations documented throughout the historical record on most continents. The end of a drought is the critical time during which water resource managers urgently require information on the replenishment of supplies. Yet this phase has been relatively neglected by the academic community, with much of the existing body of research on drought termination assessing the likelihood of droughts ending rather than its temporal profile. In particular, there has been little effort to characterise drought termination events themselves. This is partly explained by existing definitions of drought termination as a specific point in time when drought is considered to have finished, rather than a more holistic consideration based on approaches developed within biological sciences. There is also a lack of understanding about how drought termination propagates through the hydrological cycle. This paper specifically examines and reviews available research on drought termination, highlighting limitations associated with current definitions and offering suggestions for characterising the temporal stages of drought. An alternative definition of drought termination is proposed: a period between the maximum negative anomaly and a return to above average conditions. Once this phase has been delineated, the duration, rate and seasonality of drought termination can be derived. The utility of these metrics is illustrated through a case study of the 2010-12 drought in the United Kingdom, and the propagation of drought termination between river flows and groundwater levels.