EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Underestimated increase in duration of annual meteorological drought in future climate projections

Irina Yu. Petrova1, Diego G. Miralles1, Florent Brient2, Markus Donat3, Yeon-Hee Kim4, and Seung-Ki Min4
Irina Yu. Petrova et al.
  • 1H-CEL, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium (
  • 2Sorbonne Université, LMD/IPSL, Paris, France
  • 3Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, Barcelona, Spain
  • 4Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Pohang, South Korea

The increasing risk of dry extremes and droughts and their further projected exacerbation due to climate change urges the development of reliable risk assessments and mitigation pathways on a regional and global scale. This foremost requires accurate and unambiguous model predictions of dry extremes, as this underpins the effectiveness of the proposed strategies. At present, however, the confidence in regional drought projections is defined as ‘medium to low' by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment report (AR6), and reducing this uncertainty remains one of the main goals in coming years.
In this study, the bias in future projected changes in annual meteorological drought duration (hereafter, longest annual drought, LAD) is assessed in the ensemble of CMIP5 and CMIP6 models. The analyses show that it is the present-day inter-model spread in LAD climatology that largely determines the inter-model uncertainty in future predicted LAD changes. Hereby, both CMIP5 and CMIP6 model ensembles indicate a robust “dry-model-gets-drier” relationship in future LAD projections on a global and regional scale. Correcting for this bias using emerging constraint principles and past observational LAD information, we find that nearly half of the world's land area with projected increases in drought duration is underestimating the predicted model ensemble mean change, imposing higher-than-expected risks to the societies and ecosystems. Analysis of physical mechanisms that could underlie this emergent “present-future relationship” points to differences in the responses of “dry models” and “wet models” to CO2 forcing. Dry and wet models show differences in climate states, which support the role of land–atmosphere feedbacks and convective scheme sensitivity to atmospheric moisture in the spread of future LAD change projections.
In conclusion, the study reveals world regions where climate change may cause stronger drought duration aggravation than expected, and emphasizes the importance of reducing systematic model errors, which are presently largely owed to rainfall biases. Correcting these biases will increase the confidence of future dry extremes predictions, a prerequisite for the effective drought risk reduction in the near future with direct benefits for human and natural systems.

How to cite: Yu. Petrova, I., G. Miralles, D., Brient, F., Donat, M., Kim, Y.-H., and Min, S.-K.: Underestimated increase in duration of annual meteorological drought in future climate projections, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-9418,, 2022.