Scientists Suggest Redefining Drought to Reflect Permanent Dry Condition

A team of researchers from six universities, led by UC Santa Barbara’s Samantha Stevenson, found that many regions of the world will enter permanent dry or wet conditions in the coming decades, under modern definitions of drought. “Essentially, we need to stop thinking about returning to normal as a thing that is possible,” said Stevenson. This study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests instead measuring drought against a changing background state. “When we talk about being in a drought, the presumption is that eventually the drought will end, and conditions will return to normal,” Stevenson said. “But if we’re never returning to normal, then we need to adapt all of the ways that we manage water with the expectation that normal will continually be drier and drier every year.”