Drought is a natural hazard that can cause a wide range of impacts affecting the environment, society, and the economy. Providing an impact assessment and reducing vulnerability to these impacts for regions beyond the local scale, spanning political and sectorial boundaries, requires systematic and detailed data regarding impacts. As part of the EU-funded FP7 project DROUGHT-R&SPI, project partners created two databases: the European Drought Reference database (EDR) consolidating information about historical large-scale drought events in Europe and their impacts, linking to the European Drought Impact report Inventory (EDII), a unique online database with more than 5000 impact reports from 33 European countries. The reported drought impacts are classified into major impact categories, each of which has a number of subtypes. The protocol developed has facilitated a new and comprehensive view on drought impacts as key indicators of loss and damage from this natural hazard across Europe (Stahl et al. 2016).
The database is currently hosted at the University of Oslo through the EDC (European Drought Centre) website. The group at UiO (led by Prof. Tallaksen) does not have the capacity to further develop and update the database. Accordingly, one has been seeking opportunities for transferring the database to a suitable organisation capable of hosting the database and ensuring its further development to the benefit of the EU community. Initial discussions have identified the EDO - European Drought Observatory - at the Joint Research Centre in Ispra as a promising candidate. A first step would be to carry out a feasibility study to explore options for a sustainable integration, development and continuous update of the EDII and the EDR databases into the EDO system.
Compared to other natural hazards, drought has a wide range of direct and cascading impacts and the losses incurred are consequently less straightforward to quantify. Based on the judgment of national experts, direct economic losses in Europe have been estimated to more than 3 billion Euros/year over the period 1976 to 2005, excluding environmental damage (European Commission, 2007). These losses are expected to increase significantly over the 21st century due to climate change. Regardless of the ultimate monetary losses, there are many policy and management options that can be taken at EU and member state level to reduce drought impacts and related losses, given that knowledge about these impacts exist. So far, monitoring efforts rely on environmental indicators only early-warning and prediction of droughts. These indices need to be better linked to impacts in specific sectors (agriculture, energy, transportation, water supply, etc.). In the EU-funded research project and follow-on studies, the EDII impact reports have been tested for use to construct drought impact functions in analogy to ‘damage & loss functions’, commonly used in disaster models. These tests have shown potential, but rely on adequate and continuous data gathering to inform the models and monitor a potentially changing vulnerability to drought in Europe. A continuous gathering of impact reports will be crucial to good risk modelling and management.
The online EDR database has two sections: a detailed summary of 11 major European (climatological) drought events and a tool that displays drought conditions on any day within the historical record (1958-2009). Maps showing climatological drought are interactive, allowing the user to watch the index progress with time. With integration into the EDO system, including its drought events database, and enabling access to near-real time data, it is envisaged that this could be a valuable add-on tool for monitoring drought conditions in Europe.
Both the EDR and the EDII are living databases and promising sources for further research on drought impacts, vulnerabilities and risks across Europe as well as for operational applications such as drought monitoring and early warning activities. A key service provided by EDII is the information basis on the extensive variety of impacts found across Europe and its documentation as well as hierarchical coding. This insight can therefore inform drought policy planning and risk management at national to international levels. The EDII database can be considered an EU database on losses and damages due to drought situations, and it could contribute to the national collection of information and data as promoted by the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.
Supporting this proposal is a first step to capitalise on these research efforts and the economic investment done so far, exploring ways to allow a sustainable continuity of the activity.