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Flash droughts and their impacts -using newspaper articles to assess the perceived consequences of rapidly emerging droughts
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  • Pedro Alencar,
  • Jan Sodoge,
  • Eva N Paton,
  • Mariana M De Brito
Pedro Alencar

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Jan Sodoge
Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
Eva N Paton
Institut of Ecology, Technical University Berlin
Mariana M De Brito
Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research


Flash droughts (FDs) have attracted increasing attention in the past decade. They are characterized by a rapid depletion of soil moisture resulting from interactions between the soil and atmospheric conditions. To date, there is a lack of consistent FD definitions and an understanding of their socioeconomic impacts. Here, we explore the relationship between biophysical FD conditions and the perceived impacts of FDs in Germany between 2000 and 2022. We measured perceived impacts by analyzing consequences reported in newspaper articles (2000-2022) and online search behavior using Google trends data (2004-2022). To characterize the physical process, we considered root zone soil moisture data. Our results show that FDs are becoming increasingly frequent in Germany, occurring once every two years on average. Despite the lack of knowledge from the general public regarding the phenomenon of FDs, the peaks of interest in drought impacts correspond to the physical occurrence of FDs across the country. We identified an average time gap of four weeks between FD onset and the reporting of perceived impacts. This gap is longer than the average duration of FDs' onset. Consequently, our findings highlight that consistent monitoring of FD conditions and drivers is necessary to guarantee effective preparedness. As impact perception is too slow to allow the adoption of mitigation measures, FDs require new schemes for response measures compared with slowly emerging (conventional) drought events. The novel method also allows the consistent and impact-based validation of flash drought identification methods.