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Predicting hydrological drought risk in Europe using big data of socio-economic and natural factors

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Van Loon
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Drought is one of the costliest natural hazards in Europe and drought risk is expected to increase in the future. To improve hydrological drought risk prediction both natural and socio-economic factors need to be taken into account. Socio-economic factors determine the vulnerability to drought and natural factors determine the link with the drivers of drought. In both categories various data sets are available, from different sources (satellite data, ground observations), on different scales (local to pan-European), in different formats (written impact reports, point data, gridded data), that need to be combined in a clever way to improve hydrological drought risk prediction (see Figure). This project aims to develop new statistical tools to contribute to improved drought prediction on European scale. Results of this project will feed into the European Drought Observatory (EDO;), which provides real-time drought information, but currently lacks hydrological drought risk maps. The objectives of this project are: bridge the social and natural science research fields in drought risk prediction; develop new tools to combine various data sets quantifying spatial variability in drought hazard and drought vulnerability; include information from different scales, both quantitative and qualitative, from pan-European satellite data to local water storage observations or drought impact reports; provide a toolkit which improves the prediction of hydrological drought risk based on multiple data sources of vulnerability and natural hazard and which can be used for drought mitigation at local and regional scales.

For this project, we want to explore the usability of a number of novel data sources, for example NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE;) satellite product that measures total water storage, and the new European Drought Impact report Inventory (EDII;) that consolidates qualitative information on the impacts of historical European drought events for a large range of sectors.
Besides the training provided by DREAM and the University of Birmingham, this project will provide additional training. The student will be trained in data analysis and visualisation techniques. S/he will interact and collaborate within an international network of scientists, will spend 6-12 months at the European Drought Observatory in Italy, and will have the opportunity to present his/her research at international conferences. The supervisors are experienced in the fields of hydrological drought (Anne Van Loon), water governance (Julian Clark), climate change impacts (Hayley Fowler), large-scale hydroclimatological analysis (David Hannah). Participation in the Young Scientists Summer Program of IIASA () is highly encouraged.

About you: Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Geography, Disaster risk management, Water management / hydrology, Meteorology / climatology, Engineering, or Natural Sciences. Furthermore, applicants are expected to show evidence of proficiency in handling large data sets, programming and mathematical skills.

For further details: Please contact Dr Anne F. Van Loon:

Funding Notes

Fully funded DREAM (NERC) studentship

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 25.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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