Land-Climate Interactions: Constraints for Droughts and Heatwaves in a Changing Climate

Project News

published: April 12, 2017

Third Internal Drought-Heat meeting at ETH Zürich

List of presentations

Where do we stand, where do we aim to? Sonia S.I. Seneviratne
GRACE as a measure of terrestrial water storage variations and constraint for climate models Vincent Humphrey
Assessing soil moisture-temperature interactions from observations and associated ...

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published: Oct. 1, 2016

Project 5 started

Kathrin Wehrli started her PhD thesis as part of project 5.

published: May 9, 2016

Second Internal Drought-Heat meeting at ETH Zürich

List of presentations

DROUGHT-HEAT Diagnostic Atlas & Dataset Updates Richard Wartenburger
Terrestrial Water Storage Diagnostics Vincent Humphrey
Update: Spatial and Temporal Variability of Land-Atmosphere Coupling Clemens Schwingshackl
Land Surface-Temperature Feedbacks Martha Vogel
Dry Spell Biases in Current Climate Models Heewon Moon ...

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published: May 1, 2016

Project 6 started

Annette Hirsch started as Postdoctoral scientist on Project 6.

published: Nov. 17, 2015

First Internal Drought-Heat meeting at ETH Zürich

List of presentations

DROUGHT-HEAT: Land-Climate Interactions: Constraints for Droughts and Heatwaves in a Changing Climate Sonia I. Seneviratne
Overview of PhD and First Results Vincent Humphrey
Overview of PhD and First Results Clemens Schwingshackl
Overview of DROUGHT-HEAT database and LandFlux-EVAL ...

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published: Oct. 30, 2015

LandMIP workshop at ETH Zurich

View the meeting programme

published: Oct. 1, 2015

Model developer started

Matthieu Leclair started as model developer on the DROUGHT-HEAT project.

published: Sept. 1, 2015

Projects 3 and 4 started

Martha Vogel and Heewon Moon started their PhD theses as part of projects 3 and 4.

published: Sept. 30, 2014

Start of the project

Successful start of the project. Vincent Humphrey and Clemens Schwingshackl started their PhDs as part of projects 1 and 2 in September 2014. Richard Wartenburger started his position as data manager in September 2014


Project Description

Land-climate interactions mediated through soil moisture and vegetation play a critical role in the climate system, in particular for the occurrence of extreme events such as droughts and heatwaves. These interactions are studied in the ERC granted project DROUGHT-HEAT lead by Prof Sonia I. Seneviratne.


The overall objective of the DROUGHT-HEAT project is to develop a comprehensive and quantitative leading-edge understanding of the land-climate feedbacks controlling heatwaves and droughts in both present and future climate, with the aim of reducing key uncertainties in ESMs and climate projections, and to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation. We consider the processes on global scale, as well as focus on several key land regions including Europe, North America, the Amazon region, and further major agricultural and/or drought-prone regions.


In the past years, in-situ and remote sensing-based datasets of soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and energy and carbon fluxes have become increasingly available, providing untapped potential for reducing associated uncertainties in current climate models (also known as Earth System Models (ESM)). The DROUGHT-HEAT project aims at innovatively exploiting these new information sources in order to

  • derive observations based diagnostics to quantify and isolate the role of land-climate interactions in past extreme events (“Diagnostic Atlas”) ("Processes, Work package 1"),
  • evaluate and improve current ESMs and constrain climate-change projections using the derived diagnostics ("Earth System Models, Work package 2") , and
  • apply the newly gained knowledge to frontier developments in the attribution of climate extremes to land processes and their mitigation through “land geoengineering” ("Frontier applications, Work package 3").

Ground-breaking nature of the project

The DROUGHT-HEAT project integrates the newest land observational datasets with the latest stream of ESMs. Novel methodologies will be applied to extract functional relationships from the data, and identify key gaps in the ESMs’ representation of underlying processes. These will build on physically-based relationships, machine learning tools, and model calibration. In addition, they will encompass the mapping and merging of derived diagnostics in space and time to reduce “blank spaces” in the datasets.

There are two main axes for the project, on the one hand the investigation of droughts vs heatwaves, and their interactions and on the other hand the methodological components within the single work packages. There will be intense interactions and collaborations between the paired PhD theses within each work package, as well as across work packages with respect to data and methodological exchanges.

The DROUGHT-HEAT project is unprecedented in its breadth and scope and will allow a major breakthrough in our understanding of the processes leading to heatwaves and droughts.