Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Research article
20 Aug 2013
Research article |  | 20 Aug 2013

Droughts in the Czech Lands, 1090–2012 AD

R. Brázdil, P. Dobrovolný, M. Trnka, O. Kotyza, L. Řezníčková, H. Valášek, P. Zahradníček, and P. Štěpánek

Abstract. This paper addresses droughts in the Czech Lands in the 1090–2012 AD period, basing its findings on documentary evidence and instrumental records. Various documentary sources were employed for the selection of drought events, which were then interpreted at a monthly level. While the data on droughts before 1500 AD are scarce, the analysis concentrated mainly on droughts after this time. A dry year in 1501–1804 period (i.e. pre-instrumental times) was defined as a calendar year in the course of which dry patterns occurred on at least two consecutive months. Using this definition, 129 dry years were identified (an average of one drought per 2.4 yr). From the 16th to the 18th centuries these figures become 41, 36 and 49 yr respectively, with the prevailing occurrence of dry months from April to September (73.7%). Drought indices – SPEI-1, Z-index and PDSI – calculated for the Czech Lands for April–September describe drought patterns between 1805 and 2012 (the instrumental period). N-year recurrence intervals were calculated for each of the three indices. Using N ≥ 5 yr, SPEI-1 indicates 40 drought years, Z-index 39 yr and PDSI 47 yr. SPEI-1 and Z-index recorded 100 yr drought in 1834, 1842, 1868, 1947 and 2003 (50 yr drought in 1992). PDSI as an indicator of long-term drought disclosed two important drought periods: 1863–1874 and 2004–2012. The first period was related to a lack of precipitation, the other may be attributed to recent temperature increases without significant changes in precipitation. Droughts from the pre-instrumental and instrumental period were used to compile a long-term chronology for the Czech Lands. The number of years with drought has fluctuated between 26 in 1951–2000 and 16 in 1651–1700. Only nine drought years were recorded between 1641 and 1680, while between 1981 and 2012 the figure was 22 yr. A number of past severe droughts are described in detail: in 1540, 1590, 1616, 1718 and 1719. A discussion of the results centres around the uncertainty problem, the spatial variability of droughts, comparison with tree-ring reconstructions from southern Moravia, and the broader central European context.