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The biggest drought events in Europe from 1950 to 2012

Drought is a complex climate and weather-related phenomenon that can affect different sectors causing relevant economic, social, and environmental impacts. We focus on meteorological drought, which can be seen as a shortage of precipitation over several months or seasons, discussing the construction of a pan-European database of meteorological drought events for the period 1950-2012. To define a meteorological drought event we computed three drought indicators: the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), and the Reconnaissance Drought Index (RDI) for two accumulation periods (3 and 12 months). Subsequently, we rationally merged the three indicators into a combined one. The indicators depend on precipitation and potential evapotranspiration and have been calculated using precipitation and temperature data from the E-OBS (v10, spatial resolution: 0.25˚x0.25˚) dataset of the European Climate Assessment and Dataset (ECA&D). Europe has been subdivided into thirteen regions and for each of them we compiled a list of drought events which have been assigned a set of parameters (start/end, duration, severity, average area involved, peak month, and area involved in the peak month). We also computed time series of the combined indicator for each region and for each single European country, in order to determine the biggest meteorological drought events from 1950 to 2012. Northern Europe and Russia show the highest drought frequency, duration, and severity in the 1950s and 1960s, Central Europe and the British Islands in the 1970s, and the Mediterranean area and the Baltic Republics in the last decades.