Adapting to Drought & High Temperatures

In recent years, there have been increasing concerns about the occurrence of drought conditions and higher temperatures in Scotland.

In recent years, there have been increasing concerns about the occurrence of drought conditions and higher temperatures in Scotland. SEPA reported that in 2018 there was a significant drop in average rainfall over the winter months, followed by an unprecedented dry summer with hotter temperatures and heatwaves in the North East of Scotland. This resulted in farmers having to irrigate more than normal, depleting the natural store of water, which was not replenished over the unusually dry winter. Projections for Scotland indicate that even under a low emissions pathway, there will be a 50% chance of each summer being hotter than that of 2018.

Soil moisture deficits have also risen since the 1980s resulting in increased drought risk in the east of Scotland, therefore, demand for irrigation is expected to rise. Furthermore, insurance claims for fire damage in 2018 rose by around 20% from 2017. While the news regularly has stories of wildfires worldwide in countries including Australia, Brazil and the USA, in 2019 the UK broke its record for the largest burnt area (29,334 hectares) and highest number of annual fires (135). Titles that were previously held by the year 2018.

Download the adaptation checklist to see what additional actions you may want to consider to improve your farms resilience to drought and high temperatures.


Water Storage and Supply

Streams, rivers and groundwater sources used for irrigation, livestock or private drinking water supply may be at risk of drying up during drought conditions.

Water &Heat Stess (crops)

Many crops will not be able to cope with water stress and yields may be effected by drought through reduced growth, smaller grain size and yield.

Water & Heat Stess (livestock)

Water and heat stress, lack of shade and relief from direct sunlight on a hot day can lead to dehydration, illness and potentially death of livestock.


Prolonged dry periods such as heatwaves can lead to wildfires, often caused by human activity (either intentionally or accidentally). Impacts include destruction if crops, grassland, heath and peatland.

What can you do now to help future proof the business?

Many of the impacts discussed above are not new, however, climate change is exacerbating the impact on the agricultural community. Implementing measures to adapt against changing rain patterns now can help reduce risks and aid the longevity of your farming business and the productivity of your land.

Alongside monitoring weather forecasts, SEPA’s live flooding information page will help you to plan ahead and mitigate any negative effects of flooding. Signing up to SEPA’s ‘Floodline’ service will ensure you receive messages when flooding is forecast in your area. Flood maps can be viewed online so that plans can be made to adapt to areas, which have an increased risk of flooding.

Further information:

Download Climate Change Adaptation for Agriculture: Is your farm ready?

This document provides a climate change adaptation checklist for your business so that various climate change adaptation measures can be considered. This will help you determine the most suitable and effective methods for improving resilience to climate change on your farm. Additionally, the topics examined throughout this document will provide suggestions and ideas that can aid in the development of an Emergency Action Plan for your business.

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