A scoping review of drought impacts on health and society in North America

Published:  Margaret Sugg, et al. Climatic Change (2020)

Drought is a highly destructive natural hazard with wide-ranging impacts on water security, agriculture, energy, and human health. Unlike most natural hazards, droughts can develop anywhere, evolve rapidly within a month or slowly over a season, and span months to decades without a clear beginning or end. Few studies investigate the direct link between drought and drought-related impacts on health and society, and little research has identified critical science gaps in the field of drought-society. This scoping review aims to explore the societal implications of drought and identify knowledge gaps for future drought-society studies. We performed a PRISMA scoping review with a four-element search model on articles published since 2010. We extracted drought impacts data from 74 articles. Results were synthesized into three main topical areas examining public health impacts, water quality impacts, and water quantity impacts. While studies were heterogeneous in terms of objectives and methods, they illustrated the full breadth of drought impacts. The current body of evidence lacks a standard set of drought indices that can be readily applied to evaluate and monitor societal impacts due to drought. The challenge of defining drought limits a holistic understanding of drought effects and recovery time. More interdisciplinary collaborations are needed to establishes community-wide consensus on the identification of relevant hydrological indicators that best describe an adverse outcome is an understudied research priority.

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  1. Department of Geography and Planning, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, 28608-2066, USAMargaret Sugg, Hannah Bagli, Andrew Golden, Leah Hart Handwerger, Tatiana Magee, Camila Moreno, Rhiannon Reed-Kelly, Michelle Taylor & Sarah Woolard
  2. North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, North Carolina State University, 151 Patton Avenue, Asheville, NC, 28801, USAJennifer Runkle & Ronnie Leeper

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Sugg, M., Runkle, J., Leeper, R. et al. A scoping review of drought impacts on health and society in North America. Climatic Change (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02848-6

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