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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Extreme dry and wet spells face changes in their duration and timing

Breinl, Korbinian; Di Baldassarre, Giuliano; Mazzoleni, Maurizio; Lun, David; Vico, Giulia


Dry spells are sequences of days without precipitation. They can have negative implications for societies, including water security and agriculture. For example, changes in their duration and within-year timing can pose a threat to food production and wildfire risk. Conversely, wet spells are sequences of days with precipitation above a certain threshold, and changes in their duration and within-year timing can impact agriculture, flooding or the prevalence of water-related vector-borne diseases. Here we assess changes in the duration and within-year timing of extreme dry and wet spells over 60 years (1958-2017) using a consistent global land surface precipitation dataset of 5093 rain gauge locations. The dataset allowed for detailed spatial analyses of the United States, Europe and Australia. While many locations exhibit statistically significant changes in the duration of extreme dry and wet spells, the changes in the within-year timing are less often significant. Our results show consistencies with observations and projections from state-of-the-art climate and water resources research. In addition, we provide new insights regarding trends in the timing of extreme dry and wet spells, an aspect being equally important for possible future implications of extremes in a changing climate, which has not yet received the same level of attention and is characterized by larger uncertainty.


extreme dry spells; extreme wet spells; change in duration; change in timing; climate change; global analysis; global trends

Published in

Environmental Research Letters
2020, volume: 15, number: 7, article number: 074040

Authors' information

Breinl, Korbinian
Vienna University of Technology
Di Baldassarre, Giuliano
Uppsala University
Mazzoleni, Maurizio
Uppsala University
Lun, David
Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Climate Research
Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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