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The influence of the North Atlantic oscillation & East Atlantic pattern on drought in British catchments

West, Harry; Quinn, Nevil; Horswell, Michael


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Mr Harry West
Senior Lecturer in Geography & Environmental Management


Drought events are influenced by a combination of both climatic and local catchment characteristics. In Great Britain the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) has long been recognised as the leading mode of climate variability, and studies have also noted the role of the East Atlantic Pattern (EA) as a secondary mode. This study aimed to develop an understanding of the combined influence of the NAO and EA on rainfall distribution and magnitude and the variable nature of meteorological to hydrological drought propagation. Initially, this study explores correlations between teleconnection indices and standardised precipitation and streamflow indices for 291 catchments across Great Britain, before focusing on nine case study catchments for further analysis. For each case study catchment, we use quantile regression and an analysis of drought frequency to explore the combined influence of the NAO and EA on drought conditions. Through a convergence of evidence from these analyses we make three observations. Firstly, in the winter months both the NAO and EA exert an influence on drought conditions, however there is spatial variability in the relative influence of the NAO and EA; the NAO has a stronger influence in the north-west, whilst the EA has a stronger influence in the southern and central regions. Secondly, in the summer months, less distinctive spatial differences were found, with higher probability of drought conditions under NAO+ phases, which however can be enhanced or moderated by the EA. Finally, as a result of catchment characteristics there is spatio-temporal variability in the propagation of meteorological to hydrological drought. Our findings suggest that by considering the NAO and EA in combination, we can better describe climate and drought variability. We conclude by noting the potential implications our study has on the role of monthly teleconnection forecasts in water management decision making in Great Britain, and acknowledge the current limitations associated with incorporating such understanding.


West, H., Quinn, N., & Horswell, M. (2022). The influence of the North Atlantic oscillation & East Atlantic pattern on drought in British catchments. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 10, Article 754597.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 23, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 17, 2022
Publication Date Mar 17, 2022
Deposit Date Feb 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 17, 2022
Journal Frontiers in Environmental Science
Electronic ISSN 2296-665X
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 754597
Public URL
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