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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Review article 04 Sep 2018

Review article | 04 Sep 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Documentary data and the study of the past droughts: an overview of the state of the art worldwide

Rudolf Brázdil1,2, Andrea Kiss3,4, Jürg Luterbacher5,6, David J. Nash7,8, and Ladislava Řezníčková1,2 Rudolf Brázdil et al.
  • 1Institute of Geography, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 2Global Change Research Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 3Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 4Department of Historical Auxiliary Sciences, Institute of History, University of Szeged, Hungary
  • 5Department of Geography, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany
  • 6Centre for International Development and Environmental Research, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
  • 7School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK
  • 8School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Abstract. The use of documentary evidence to investigate past climatic trends and events has become a recognised approach in recent decades. This contribution presents the state of the art in its application to droughts. The range of documentary evidence is very wide, including: general annals, chronicles, and memoirs, diaries kept by missionaries, travellers and those specifically interested in the weather, the records kept by administrators tasked with keeping accounts and other financial and economic records, legal-administrative evidence, religious sources, letters, marketplace and shopkeepers' songs, newspapers and journals, pictographic evidence, chronograms, epigraphic evidence, early instrumental observations, society commentaries, compilations and books, and historical-climatological databases. These come from many parts of the world. This variety of documentary information is evaluated with respect to the reconstruction of hydroclimatic conditions (precipitation, drought frequency and drought indices). Documentary-based drought reconstructions are then addressed in terms of long-term spatio-temporal fluctuations, major drought events, relationships with external forcing and large-scale climate drivers, socio-economic impacts and human responses. Documentary-based drought series are also discussed from the viewpoint of spatio-temporal variability for certain continents, and their employment together with hydroclimate reconstructions from other proxies (in particular tree-rings) is discussed. Finally, conclusions are drawn and challenges for the future use of documentary evidence in the study of droughts are presented.

Rudolf Brázdil et al.
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Rudolf Brázdil et al.
Rudolf Brázdil et al.
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Short summary
The paper presents a worldwide state of the art of droughts fluctuations based on documentary data. It gives an overview of achievements related to different kinds of documentary evidence with their examples, it gives overview of papers presenting long-term drought chronologies over the individual continents, analysis of the most oustanding drought events, the influence of external forcing and large-sacle climate drivers and human impacts and responses. It recommends future research directions.
The paper presents a worldwide state of the art of droughts fluctuations based on documentary...