The Annual Meetings of the EMS aim at fostering exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas in the meteorological, climatological, and related communities. Facilitating interactions, integration, and engagement of science, applications, and actors is our core objective. The session programme highlights these goals and offers many opportunities for enhancing collaboration across the entire weather and climate enterprise (public, private, academic, users, and NGOs) to benefit societies in Europe and worldwide.

In addition, a particular focus of the 2023 Annual Meeting, reflecting the interests and activities of the host institutions, will be on droughts and drought-related challenges.

Europe and droughts: Hydrometeorological processes, forecasting and preparedness

Over the past few decades, droughts have increased in frequency and intensity in Europe. Since 1976, the areas and population affected by droughts have increased by 20%. Water scarcity and droughts result in large impacts on the economy and on the welfare of people (e.g. agriculture, energy production, drinking water, transport, environment). At the same time droughts often coincide with severe heatwaves that are themselves detrimental to public health. Furthermore, droughts and heatwaves together increase the risk of large forest fires, bringing added dangers and enhancing harmful air pollution, which are also detrimental to public health. Climate change projections also point to increased drought frequency.

Multiple mechanisms trigger droughts: shortfall of precipitation, soil moisture deficits, or reduced moisture supply from snowmelt. Consequently, a holistic and multidisciplinary approach is needed to understand and predict droughts and to develop preparedness, adaptation, and mitigation strategies. In addition, many rivers and river catchments cross country borders, which calls for transboundary cooperation and action.

Therefore – with a focus on droughts at EMS2023 – we intend to address drought-related challenges from several angles.

Monitoring systems

  • How can we enhance monitoring networks and extract more information from them (e.g. for precipitation, soil moisture, reservoir levels, river flow, or groundwater levels)?
  • Which innovative technologies and approaches can be developed, especially those based on remote sensing, to enhance and broaden the monitoring of the various Earth system components driving droughts?
  • The multi-faceted origins of droughts imply that monitoring should be based on time series of different parameters that are themselves integrated together into indices.

Understanding processes

  • Droughts can be caused by a mix of intertwined physical processes that span multiple scales, from for example the local land surface state up to hemispheric-scale weather patterns. This complexity requires dedicated research for a better understanding.
  • Teleconnection linkages also need to be better understood to develop a longer timescale basis for forecasting.

Droughts and climate

  • What can we learn from historical drought events?
  • Droughts and climate change – what can we expect and why?

Forecasting, warning systems and communication

  • The high potential for severe impacts calls for timely and effective information (especially early warning systems) to allow all stakeholders at risk (including individuals, communities, authorities, and businesses) to take preparatory action to avoid or reduce risks.
  • The potential for better services from both satellite data generated by the Copernicus programme and its services to provide relevant information for monitoring existing droughts and predicting future ones has to be addressed.

Understanding processes

  • Drought impacts can severely affect many socio-economic sectors. It is essential to develop preparedness, prevention, adaptation, and mitigation strategies and measures based on effective communication between the various stakeholders.
  • Drought management needs to develop from being reactive, dealing mainly with losses and damages, to becoming proactive. Co-operation among the key actors is crucial, and this needs to improve so that proactive drought management plans can be developed.
  • With a growing share of our energy supplies coming from renewables such as wind and solar power, the energy sector and society have become more vulnerable to long periods of low winds and low solar radiation, which can also be regarded as a drought condition. These events and their consequences also need to be better understood and better forecast.

International programmes

  • Concerns about drought impact on socio-economic stability have triggered international initiatives that need to be connected with ongoing scientific and applied activities presented at EMS2023. These initiatives include the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the WMO Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP), both contributing to WMO’s Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), and in particular its priority areas of disaster risk reduction, water, agriculture, and food security.
  • EMS2023 in Bratislava will thus take advantage of the GWP Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) office located in Bratislava that is itself tasked with launching a regional implementation of the IDMP.