Tag Archives: public awareness

Towards improved drought awareness

By Daniel Schillereff

The copyright on this image is owned by Peter Bond and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

While recent years have been typified by intensely dry spells interspersed with severe flooding in many parts of the UK, this year (2012) will be remembered by many for the occurrence of both meteorological extremes. This shift was of a ‘magnitude never seen before’, according to experts at the Centre for Ecological and Hydrology (CEH), quoted in a recent Guardian article. The current issue of Area (December 2012, Volume 44, Issue 4) includes a Special Section comprising a number of articles focusing on water management and climate change, which is clearly timely.

While interaction between scientists, local residents and decision makers is commonplace when flood-risk mitigation strategies are being developed, such cooperation and communication is rarer when addressing droughts, despite the severe negative ecological, financial and societal impacts of prolonged dry periods. The media coverage of the spring drought was extensive, however drought generating mechanisms and the historical record of drought frequency and intensity were rarely discussed and public knowledge of these mechanisms appears limited. The Rahiz and New paper in this section deals specifically with meteorological drought in the UK and therefore deserves special attention.

Their paper includes a summary of historical drought literature for the UK which should be a first port of call for all readers. Among the principal findings of their study is confirmation that the North Atlantic Oscillation is an important driver of UK droughts as well indicating that the severity of drought events exhibits significant variability in different regions across the UK. If these points are considered by decision makers at water summits, similar to that which took place in Kent this month as mentioned on the BBC, there is scope for more informed responses to be implemented in the future to address water security. The public also have a vital role in water resource management and the updated drought information on the Environment Agency website and their social media feeds will hopefully lead to greater understanding among citizens when water rationing is instigated in the future.

  M Rahiz, M New, 2012, Spatial coherence of meteorological droughts in the UK since 1914, Area 44 (4) 400-410.

  ‘Water summit’ in drought-hit South East, BBC News Online, 3 November 2012

  UK’s year of drought and flooding unprecedented, experts say, The Guardian, 18 October 2012

Geography, imagination and understanding the world around us

Logo of the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2011. © Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

by Madeleine Hatfield

As the first term of the UK’s current academic year draws to an end, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference of August and September already seems a long time ago – in fact, planning for next year’s conference in July is well underway. Those who attended will remember a wide range of papers and presenters sharing their research under the theme of ‘Geographical Imagination’. Several of the research projects behind these presentations also made the news, showing how geographical research informs wider debates, including Tom Hargreave’s work on smart energy meters, Jon Anderson’s research on surfing and coastal conservation and Jenny Pickerill on the short-comings of ‘eco-bling’.

The Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers journal offers another window onto the geographical imagination with its Virtual Issue guest edited by the conference chair, Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham). This brings together papers – still free to access online at the time of writing – published across the history of the journal and shows how the concept of a geographical imagination can provide a new way of understanding places, how we think about them and how we represent them through our writing and maps. Our understanding of the world around us is always influenced by our imagination, not just when we dream or write stories, and our imagination is equally fed by everything we see and do – reading the news, attending lectures or going on holiday.

Daniels, S. ed. 2011. Virtual Issue on The Geographical Imagination. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

Dr. Jon Anderson’s Spatial Manifesto website with audio and visual media coverage from the BBC.

Bawden, T. 2011. The Smart answer to the energy crisis? The Independent, 1 October 2011. [Report on Tom Hargreave’s research as presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference]

In Loughborough. 2011. When eco-friendly means eco-bling. 15 September 2011. [Report on Jenny Pickerill’s research as presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference]

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference.