In this study, we use numerical experiments with a simple water balance model to understand the roles of key climate characteristics in hydrologic drought propagation and the consequence of human responses to drought events under different climates. The experiments use climate inputs from a range of places with a hypothetical catchment of fixed properties to study drought propagation under different climates. Three drought propagation mechanisms are identified that produce hydrologic droughts with differing characteristics. The first mechanism involves seasonal groundwater recharge cycles, which persist during low rainfall periods, resulting in shorter hydrologic droughts compared to meteorological droughts. The second is characterized by seasonal groundwater recharge cycles that are suppressed during low rainfall periods, resulting in longer hydrologic droughts than meteorological droughts. The third is exemplified by a lack of seasonality in groundwater recharge and a strong control of precipitation over groundwater recharge, resulting in hydrologic droughts of similar duration as meteorological droughts. The roles of seasonality, climate aridity, and timing of precipitation in producing these different drought propagation mechanisms are studied. The timing of precipitation is found to have the most significant impact. Furthermore, modeling experiments are performed to understand the role of climate in the interaction between short and long time-scale human activities in response to droughts and the effect of the common practice of groundwater pumping during drought events on long-term groundwater depletion. Interestingly, climates with high interannual variability of precipitation are found to be associated with less groundwater depletion than the climates with low interannual variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9304-9329
Number of pages26
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • climate controls
  • drought propagation
  • groundwater depletion
  • model diagnostics
  • seasonality
  • socio-hydrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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