drought, abnormally long period of insufficient rainfall. Drought cannot be defined in terms of inches of rainfall or number of days without rain, since it is determined by such variable factors as the distribution in time and area of precipitation during and before the dry period. Since ancient times droughts have had far-reaching effects on humankind by causing the failure of crops, decreasing natural vegetation, and depleting water supplies. Livestock and wildlife, as well as humans, die of thirst and famine; large land areas often suffer damage from dust storms or fire. Drought is thought by some to have caused migrations of early humans. In India and China drought has periodically brought widespread privation and death. In 1930 lack of rainfall devastated the Great Plains of the United States; called the Dust Bowl, its area spread to alarming dimensions (about 50 million acres). During 1962 much of the eastern part of the United States experienced the worst drought in more than 50 years. Some two thirds of the United States experienced drought that combined with some of warmest temperatures on record in the summer of 2012. Since the 1960s severe, sometimes recurring droughts have afflicted countries in many parts of Africa. Clearcutting of trees for firewood, overgrazing, and overcultivation, which lead to land degredation, contribute to this drought cycle.

See C. S. Russell et al., Drought and Water Supply (1970); W. C. Palmer and L. M. Denny, Drought Bibliography (1971); R. V. Garcia and J. Escudero, Drought and Man (1986).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Drought: The Red Marauder
Michael McKernan.
Allen & Unwin, 2005
Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile
Millard Burr; Robert O. Collins.
Westview Press, 1995
War and Drought in Sudan: Essays on Population Displacement
Eltigani E. El Tigani.
University Press of Florida, 1995
Uncertain Climate: The Recent History of Drought Policy in Australia
Botterill, Linda Courtenay.
The Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 49, No. 1, March 2003
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Political Economy of Hunger
Jean Dreze; Amartya Sen.
Clarendon Press, vol.2, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of drought begins on p. 13
The Challenges of Famine Relief: Emergency Operations in the Sudan
Francis M. Deng; Larry Minear.
Brookings Institution Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Drought-Induced Famine, 1983-1986"
Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land
John Opie.
University of Nebraska Press, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Move toward a Drier World: The Summer of 1988"
The Physical Geography of Africa
W. M. Adams; A. S. Goudie; A. R. Orme.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "Desertification"
Global Environmental Issues: A Climatological Approach
David D.Kemp.
Routledge, 1994 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Drought, Famine and Desertification"
Climate, Change and Risk
Thomas E. Downing; Alexander A. Olsthoorn; Richard S. J. Tol.
Routledge, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Agricultural Drought In Europe: Site, Regional And National Effects Of Climate Change"
Environmental Hazards: Assessing Risk and Reducing Disaster
Keith Smith.
Routledge, 2004 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Hydrological Hazards: Droughts"
The North African Environment at Risk
Will D. Swearingen; Abdellatif Bencherifa.
Westview Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Is Drought Increasing in Northwest Africa? A Historical Analysis"
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