Droughts

The UK drought portal is a tool to help understand the severity and magnitude of drought at different spatial scales across the UK over the past half century. Droughts can be visualised and explored through interactive maps and graphs

Launch the drought tool

The current version shows the relative magnitude of drought events within river basins and individual catchments based on rainfall deficits over durations ranging from 1 to 24 months. In future this could be extended to include the impact of varying evaporation rates, drought metrics based on river flow and groundwater conditions, or even to display current drought status from real-time drought information.

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The data

The data within the drought portal are based on the Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI). This represents the variation of rainfall deficit from the mean in a standardised way to enable droughts in different climate zones to be directly compared.

The rainfall deficit can be calculated over different time periods, in this case over 3, 6, 12, 18 or 24 months. SPI statistics over shorter durations generally represent shorter, more intense droughts which could impact on, for example, crop growth, while those over longer periods represent whole or multi-year droughts which could affect river flows, reservoir levels or groundwater storage.

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The SPI is calculated initially on a 5km grid, based on rainfall data from the CEH-GEAR dataset. The 5km rainfall is aggregated up to river basins from CEH’s Integrated Hydrological Units (IHU) dataset, at two different scales to represent the impacts over wider areas; the IHU Hydrometric Areas consist of over 100 UK water management areas, the IHU groups is a dataset of around 400 whole river catchments of around 400km2 across the UK.

Launch the drought tool

 

The services

The rainfall data (CEH-GEAR), the SPI grids, the spatial catchment areas and the derived SPI for these areas are all freely downloadable from CEH’s Environmental Information Data Centre.

In addition, web-services are available to enable the integration of drought maps within other applications, and programmatic access to the data to enable further analysis and integration with other datasets.

More information is available via the following links, including citeable DOIs for the datasets.

CEH Gridded Estimates of Areal Rainfall (doi: 10/s99)

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Standardised Precipitation Index 5km grid (doi: 10/355)

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Integrated Hydrological Unit Areas (doi: 10/zvd)

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WMS

Integrated Hydrological Unit Groups (doi: 10/zvm)

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WMS

Standardised Precipitation Index time series for Integrated Hydrological Units Hydrometric Areas (1961-2012) (doi: 10/f274xc)

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Standardised Precipitation Index time series for Integrated Hydrological Units Groups (1961-2012) (doi: 10/f274xd)

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Terms and conditions of use apply to all of the datasets. While the data is freely usable for research purposes and for commercial internal business use, those wishing to build commercial services directly from CEH data are required to contact CEH data licensing.

Please provide feedback on the portal, the datasets available, and the data services provided using the feedback button on the right.

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