By, Sam Illingworth.
In harvest’s grasp
where seasons dance
and futures twirl,
a thief in the night
takes what months
had given –
A rapid sear
and pulling seeds
with weeping hands
beneath our blazing
This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that global flash droughts are expected to increase in a warming climate.
A flash drought is a meteorological phenomenon that is characterised by a sudden and rapid onset of drought conditions. Unlike conventional droughts, which develop and intensify over months to years, flash droughts can occur within a matter of days to weeks.
This swift transition can be triggered by a combination of factors, including high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds, and minimal 8precipitation, all of which lead to a rapid increase in evapotranspiration — the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants. Given their unexpected nature and rapid evolution, flash droughts pose significant challenges to sectors that are dependent on regular and predictable rainfall patterns, particularly agriculture.
In this new study, researchers used global climate model simulations to explore the impact that global warming is likely having on the frequency of flash droughts.
In analysing these simulations, the researchers found that flash droughts are projected to become increasingly frequent with the progressive warming of our planet, especially under scenarios involving excessive fossil fuel usage. As such, the risk of flash droughts over global croplands is anticipated to rise, with the most significant projected increases expected in North America and Europe. This escalation in risk could potentially disrupt our agricultural productivity, with cascading effects on our food supply and economy.
However, the study provides a potential solution. If we manage to adhere to lower and medium emissions scenarios, as opposed to the high-end ones, we could see a significant reduction in the annual risk of flash drought over croplands.