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The current drought in Europe may be the worst since at least 500 years

  • The current drought in Europe may be the worst since at least 500 years

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The European Drought Observatory (EDO) has issued a report updating Europe’s drought situation. The evolution since the July 2022 report shows the severe drought affecting many regions of Europe since the beginning of the year has continued to worsen.

The EDO uses a Combined Drought Indicator (CDI) to identify areas that may be affected by agricultural drought, classifying areas into three drought classes: watch, warning, and alert. The latest CDI update, including the first 10 days of August 2022, shows 47% of Europe is under warning conditions, meaning that precipitation has been less than usual and soil moisture is in deficit, and 17% of Europe is in alert, meaning that also vegetation and crops shows signs of stress. Thus, cumulatively, 64% of Europe is under the two most severe drought classes – warning or alert – something with is contributing to spread widely the areas of fire danger.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, said in a statement: “The combination of a severe drought and heatwaves has created an unprecedented stress on water levels in the entire EU. We are currently noticing a wildfires season sensibly above the average and an important impact on crops production”.

The exceptionally hot and dry weather conditions continue to reduce the yield outlooks for summer crops. Most affected are grain maize, sunflowers, and soybean crops, with current yield forecasts 16%, 15% and 12% below the 5-year average, respectively.

The precipitation deficit has affected rivers across Europe, affecting the energy sector for both hydropower generation and cooling systems of power plants, as well as river transport. In some regions, precipitation in mid-August may have alleviated drought; however, in some areas, associated thunderstorms caused damages, losses, and may have limited the beneficial effects of precipitation.

The forecast after the summer predicts close to normal conditions in most of Europe until October 2022, although it may not be enough to recover from the accumulated deficit. However, warmer and drier than usual conditions are expected in the western Euro-Mediterranean region up to November, namely some areas of the Iberian Peninsula.

The current drought may be the worst since at least 500 years, according to experts from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre; final data at the end of the season would confirm this assessment.

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