The European Commission confirmed that nearly half of the land in the European Union is under drought warning or in severe alert, which can impact agriculture, energy production, and water supply.
Many areas are suffering from what is , which is the worst drought since the 500-year record.
New data from the European Drought Observatory (ECO) has confirmed that 47% of the bloc’s land was in “warning” drought conditions – the second-most severe category of drought – over the 10 days preceding 30 July.
Even more concerning is the 17% land that has reached the most severe alert status. This means not only are soils drying out after low rainfall, but also crops and plants are suffering.
In July, the EDO warned that additional dry weather forecasts for many countries in September and August “add to the already very serious situation” and would, if confirmed, “exacerbate drought severity and the effects on agriculture, energy, and water supply”.
Additional heatwaves are possible, with little rain, but the long-term outlook is more concerning, Andrea Toreti (senior researcher at the EC’s Joint Research Centre), who compiles EDO data, stated Tuesday.
He said that he saw a high likelihood of dry conditions in the UK and western Europe over the next three-months.
“So, this is causing more concern that just the forecasts for the next few days,”
Western Europe’s water levels are low or dry in many reservoirs and rivers. This puts stress on water supplies and can threaten crop yields.
The Rhine, Germany’s commercial arterial, has seen weeks of dry weather and a lack of rainfall, which has caused the Rhine to lose its water supply. This has delayed shipping and raised freight costs by more than five-fifths.
Spanish reservoirs have 40% capacity in August on average, which is well below the ten year average of 60%. A shriveling lake in Serbia, however, has seen hundreds of dead fish washed up.
As the country struggles with water shortages, and another major wildfire, French police patrol some streets to make sure that residents and businesses don’t waste water.
Toreti stated that droughts and water shortages will continue to increase in areas. He also said that “this intensity will rise dramatically in Europe, both in Europe’s north and south” if mitigation measures are not implemented.
Energy production reached
Russia’s latest invasion and disruption of European gas supplies by Russia also caused energy prices to soar and left countries searching for home-grown energy.
However, low river levels and high water temperatures have hampered energy production in certain areas.
Nine countries including Norway, Serbia, Montenegro, and Italy have seen their hydropower reservoirs drop in water levels.
EDF, a nuclear operator, has reduced its power output at a plant near southwestern France last week due to high Garonne river temperatures. Half of the 56 reactors are currently offline due to maintenance or corrosion issues.
Although climate breakdown makes droughts in the Mediterranean more common and severe, it is not the cause of all droughts.
Although the causes of drought can be complex, climate change has two main effects. It makes it more difficult to retain rainfall by concentrating it into shorter, stronger bursts.
Higher temperatures evaporate more water, and heatwaves, which “unilaterally”, are linked to global warming, drive up demand as people seek cooling off.
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