Standard Article

Climate Change and North American Great Plains' Drought

Physical Processes

  1. David J. Sauchyn1,
  2. Barrie R. Bonsal2

Published Online: 15 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470057339.vnn123

Encyclopedia of Environmetrics

Encyclopedia of Environmetrics

How to Cite

Sauchyn, D. J. and Bonsal, B. R. 2013. Climate Change and North American Great Plains' Drought. Encyclopedia of Environmetrics. 1.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Regina, Regina, SK, Canada

  2. 2

    Environment Canada, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JAN 2013


Since human activities and ecosystem health are dependent on adequate, reliable water supplies, droughts pose a serious threat to society and the environment. Over much of the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes, droughts are a recurrent feature of the natural climate as evidenced from direct measurements during the instrumental period, and as inferred from paleo-reconstructions dating back several centuries. However, concern has been expressed regarding climate-change impacts on future drought frequency, duration, and severity over various regions of the world and in particular, continental interior regions at high latitudes. This article synthesizes relevant scientific research regarding drought in the North American Great Plains, and the Canadian Prairies in particular. First, we review existing knowledge regarding the large-scale atmospheric causes of North American drought. This is followed by a synopsis of past trends and variability of drought occurrence in the instrumental and paleo record. We then summarize research on the future drought in a changing climate. This article concludes with the identification of major research gaps that will aid in the ability to understand and predict future changes to Great Plains' droughts.


  • drought;
  • climate change;
  • climate variability;
  • teleconnections;
  • PDSI;
  • Great Plains