OR/15/007 Appendix 1

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Durant M. 2015. Description of groundwater droughts in the UK: 1890 to 2015. British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/15/007.

This appendix covers the most recent drought period that is reported in the literature but is excluded from the drought episodes list based on a low SGI drought intensity value.

The 1959 drought

The 1959 drought was most severe in eastern, central and north-eastern England, with a significant spatial variation in intensity (Marsh et al. 2007[1]). It was a short, intense, 3 season drought, extending from February to November 1959, and exhibited record rainfall minima in September 1959 (Alexander & Jones, 2001[2]; Marsh et al. 2007[1]). There were widespread surface water impacts requiring in excess of 50 Drought Orders, the transfer of water by tanker and bulk transfers of water (Taylor et al. 2009[3]). The drought affected both rural and urban communities and had impacts on the public discourse of drought, as well as highlighting the spatial scale of water control (Taylor et al. 2009[3]).

Although this drought is observed in the SGI, the signal is not particularly strong, with an average of -0.66 at Dalton Holme (Bloomfield & Marchant, 2013[4]). It does not appear in a list of major droughts when classified by the SGI (Bloomfield & Marchant, 2013[4]) however it is classified by Marsh et al. (2007[1]). This is due to several factors, including the presence of, although below average recharge in winter 1958/59, a particularly wet end to 1958 allowing for adequate recharge despite the recharge season being cut short in 1959, as well as the short duration but high intensity of the drought. The drought was also terminated in autumn 1959 (Met Office, 1963[5]), allowing for a prompt start to the recharge season. Although the recharge season was cut short in 1959, groundwater levels were high enough to absorb the impact of a particularly dry summer and autumn, highlighting the importance of dry winters in propagating groundwater drought.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 MARSH, T, COLE, G and WILBY, R. (2007). Major droughts in England and Wales, 1800–2006. Weather, 62(4), 87–93.
  2. ALEXANDER, L V and JONES, P D. (2001) Updated precipitation series for the UK and discussion of recent extremes. Atmospheric Science Letters DOI:10.1006/ASLE.2001.0025
  3. 3.0 3.1 TAYLOR, V, CHAPPELLS, H, MEDD, W and TRENTMANN, F. (2009). Drought is normal: the socio-technical evolution of drought and water demand in England and Wales, 1893–2006. JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY, 35(3), 568–591.
  4. 4.0 4.1 BLOOMFIELD, J P and MARCHANT, B P. (2013). Analysis of groundwater drought using a variant of the standardised precipitation index. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 10(6), 7537–7574.
  5. MET OFFICE, (1963). BRitish rainfall, 1959–1960, HMSO, London