5 Causes of Drought Explained

Causes of drought include; natural weather variations, unsustainable water consumption, deforestation, global warming, ocean-induced air circulation patterns.

This article discusses the causes of drought, as follows;





1). Natural Weather Variations (as one of the Causes of Drought)

Natural weather and climatic cycles often include periods of low precipitation, low humidity and high temperature, all of which can culminate in drought events.

This is especially the case for areas that occur within arid zones, and that are naturally subject to the effects and conditions of desertification.

What it implies is that drought can take the form of a natural hazard [5], although it is more common for drought events to occur as the environmental impact of unsustainable human activities.

Naturally-induced drought events are generally less prolonged and severe than human-induced drought.




2). Unsustainable Water Consumption

Given that the primary driver of drought occurrence is water shortage, it is not difficult to predict that unsustainable water consumption can contribute to the facilitation of drought events.

In regions where drought-inclined meteorologic and environmental conditions are already in place, any major strain on available water resources will almost unfailingly cause drought to occur.

Phenomena like overpopulation can be behind this problem also, and can facilitate over-abstraction of water from aquifers; surface water reserves like streams and rivers, and artificial reserves like water dam reservoirs.

Studies show that human consumption of water resources tends to increase both drought risk and frequency by between 2-35% in different parts of the world [4].

Reversing or mitigating such effects is possible through conservative water consumption practices that include greywater recycling; and efficient usage.




3). Deforestation (as one of the Causes of Drought)

Drought is usually accompanied by a gross reduction in organic activity, biodiversity, biomass and bioenergy production, and weakening of the potency of energy pyramids in ecosystems.

Because all these conditions are also caused by deforestation, it is correct to classify deforestation as a potential cause of drought.

Deforestation causes drought and reduction in rainfall by reducing the total amount of biomass and organic activity within an area, along with useful biogeochemical processes like biodegradation, carbon sequestration, and evapotranspiration, all of which are essential to drive the hydrological cycle.

The relationship between deforestation and drought is a bidirectional, cause-and-effect relationship.

Deforestation leads to more frequent drought by reducing vegetative cover that protects the soil from excessive moisture loss, and by allowing more greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere to cause global warming.

In turn, when drought has occurred, the growth of regional forests is often affected, leading to vegetation loss or deforestation.

Causes of Drought: Deforestation (Credit: DIPU1 2017 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)
Causes of Drought: Deforestation (Credit: DIPU1 2017 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)




4). Global Warming

Along with climate change, global warming both facilitates and exacerbates drought, by altering precipitation patterns and increasing regional heating and evaporation [1].

The role of global warming in drought occurrence is all-encompassing, because it links to other causes of drought as both a correlational and overarching factor.

Satellite imagery and other monitoring techniques have been used to observe simultaneity between climate change and drought in many regions.

Increased temperatures, weather, edaphic and ecologic changes occurring in the context of global warming are all behind increased drought risk.

The role of global warming implies that measures like energy transition and sustainable agriculture (which are useful to mitigate global warming) can be effective for controlling drought.




5). Ocean-induced Air Circulation Patterns (as one of the Causes of Drought)

Atmospheric air circulation patterns play a role in drought occurrence.

These patterns are in turn influenced by ocean currents, which tend to work in synergy with atmospheric air currents to determine regional weather conditions on a spatial and temporal basis.

Air circulation causes drought by determining the trend of convective circulation of moisture in the atmosphere, which in turn determines the frequency of precipitation and regional humidity conditions.

In areas where ocean-induced air currents are significant, long-term droughts may result [3].

However, it is more common for air currents to play a secondary role in drought occurrence, alongside other causative factors.






Causes of drought are;

1. Natural Weather Variations

2. Unsustainable Water Consumption

3. Deforestation

4. Global Warming

5. Ocean-induced Air Circulation Patterns






1). Dai, A.; Zhao, T.; Chen, J. (2018). “Climate Change and Drought: a Precipitation and Evaporation Perspective.” Current Climate Change Reports 4(9). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40641-018-0101-6. (Accessed 26 December 2022).

2). Hanbury, S. (2020). “Scientists measure Amazon drought and deforestation feedback loop: Study.” Available at: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/07/scientists-measure-amazon-drought-and-deforestation-feedback-loop-study/. (Accessed 26 December 2022).

3). Hassan, W. U.; Nayak, M. (2021). “Global teleconnections in droughts caused by oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns.” Environmental Research Letters 16(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abc9e2. (Accessed 26 December 2022).

4). Wada, Y.; van Beek, L. P. H.; Wanders, N.; Bierkens, M. F. P. (2013). “Human water consumption intensifies hydrological drought worldwide.” Environmental Research Letters 8(3). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034036. (Accessed 26 December 2022).

5). Wilhite, D. A. (2000). “Drought as a Natural Hazard: Concepts and Definitions.” Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/243785200_Drought_as_a_Natural_Hazard_Concepts_and_Definitions. (Accessed 26 December 2022).

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