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CR 70:161-178 (2016)  -  DOI:

The Central European drought of 1947: causes and consequences, with particular reference to the Czech Lands

Rudolf Brázdil1,2,*, Pavel Raška3, Miroslav Trnka2,4, Pavel Zahradníček2,5, Hubert Valášek1,6, Petr Dobrovolný1,2, Ladislava Řezníčková1,2, Pavel Treml7, Zdeněk Stachonˇ1

1Institute of Geography, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic
2Global Change Research Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Bělidla 986/4a, 603 00 Brno, Czech Republic
3Department of Geography, J. E. Purkyně University, České mládeže 8, 400 96 Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
4Department of Agrosystems and Bioclimatology, Mendel University in Brno, Zemělská 1, 613 00 Brno, Czech Republic
5Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Brno Regional Office, Kroftova 43, 616 67 Brno, Czech Republic
6Moravian Land Archives, Palackého nám. 1, 625 00 Brno, Czech Republic
7T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute, Podbabská 30, 160 62 Praha 6, Czech Republic
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A drought of exceptional severity took place in Central Europe in 1947, with marked socio-economic consequences and far-reaching political responses in the Czech Lands. A rich body of meteorological observations from the Czech Lands is drawn upon to construct a comprehensive picture of the various direct and indirect factors that led to this extreme event and to describe its impacts across a range of spatiotemporal scales. In terms of the Czech Lands in their entirety and the full 1804-2014 period of instrumental measurements, the 1947 drought, which lasted from April to October, may be expressed as very low monthly values of Standardised Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index for 1 month (SPEI-1), Standardised Precipitation Index for 1 month (SPI-1), and Palmer’s Z-index. Independent evidence from mean monthly patterns of sea-level pressure suggests it originated in an anticyclone over Central Europe and ridges of high pressure extending over the area. Duration and deficiency volumes recorded at selected Czech hydrological stations indicate that the 1947 event was one of the 3 most important hydrologic drought episodes since the late 1880s. Severe agricultural drought was reflected in a low to extremely bad harvest of cereals and other agricultural crops. A critical lack of cereals was remedied by ‘brotherly help’, i.e. relief shipments from the Soviet Union given for reasons that were far more political than altruistic. The whole process received considerable attention in the national media, influencing public opinion for decades. It also led to various administrative responses and decisions at local, regional and even state levels. This study demonstrates that the 1947 drought was a significant climatic anomaly of great spatial extent, and with wide-ranging socio-economic consequences.

KEY WORDS: 1947 drought · Meteorological drought · Hydrological drought · Agricultural drought · Drought impact · Socio-economic responses · Czech Lands

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Cite this article as: Brázdil R, Raška P, Trnka M, Zahradníček P and others (2016) The Central European drought of 1947: causes and consequences, with particular reference to the Czech Lands. Clim Res 70:161-178.

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