Drought in Europe – as lack of rain begins to take its toll

susza w Europie

Many don’t see it, and violent rains can lull vigilance. However, the drought in Europe has become a reality and is having a huge impact on how Europeans function. There is also no indication that the negative trend is about to reverse. Southern Europe is suffering the most, but circumstances are worrisome in other parts of the continent as well. What might the situation look like in the near future?

Europe’s drought visible from space

Europe’s massive drought is visible even from space. One of the reasons for its formation is the warm winter. Temperature from December 2022. through February 2023. was on average 1.4°C higher than in the past 30 years. February this year brought not only higher temperatures, but also a lack of rain. This directly affects soil drought.

Without being overly dramatic, it must be admitted that the drought is bringing Europe to the brink of a hydrological disaster. This touches agriculture, of course, but not only. The energy and communications sectors are also suffering, and ultimately Europe’s drought threatens soil degradation and irreversible changes in ecosystems. Droughts that last for months also threaten to cause extreme weather events and fires.

Spain in a desert climate

This problem affects Spain, among others, which is, as it were, fighting on the front line against the effects of climate change. Back in March, Spain’s meteorological office reported a prolonged drought in the Iberian Peninsula. According to the meteorological agency AEMET, precipitation across Spain is much lower than the multi-year average, and waves of tropical heat are becoming more frequent. Thirty-degree heat swept into the region in record time, as early as March.

An example of change is the situation in Catalonia, where water restrictions have already been introduced at the end of the winter season. The ban on watering lawns and green spaces is an ad hoc measure introduced by the authorities. The level of Pantà de Sau Lake, which has only 10% of its water left, is an indication of how dramatic the situation is. A similar situation is occurring in France, where the stunning Lake Montbel at the foot of the Pyrenees, vital for local agriculture and wildlife, is dying due to drought.

Drought in Europe – time to get used to it?

The drought that Europe experienced in 2022 was the worst of its kind in 500 years. It is influenced, of course, by global warming, and can therefore recur once every 20 years. Freiderike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College Lond, also points out how extreme events linked to climate change can damage infrastructure and affect humanity. It is estimated that as warming progresses, the precipitation zones of the mild climate may move toward the poles, and the subtropical climate will take on a tropical climate. In this worst-case scenario, southern parts of Europe could turn into a desert.

El Niño – not only droughts, but also record temperature readings

According to climatologists, El Niño is also fast approaching. The mechanism could begin as early as this summer and peak in late 2023 or early 2024. At this point, the neutral phase still prevails. This means that the waters of the central Pacific have a temperature close to the multi-year average. With about 80% probability, the positive phase will start as early as around August. And this will only amplify global warming and intensify phenomena such as droughts and floods.

The upcoming El Niño phenomenon is an inevitable harbinger of record high temperatures. It can last 9 – 12 months, but sometimes much longer. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the dangerous limit for humanity and the planet in terms of climate warming is considered to be exceeding the 1.5°C increase relative to the pre-industrial era. This threshold with more than 60% probability may already be exceeded before 2027.

At the moment, the level is estimated at 1.1 – 1.2°C. While it may seem unrealistic to exceed this level in such a short period of time, El Niño will have a huge impact on the reading of global temperatures. What’s more, the increase in global average temperature over the year can range from 1.1 to as much as 1.8°C. Extreme summers in terms of temperature readings, on the other hand, may be fraught with further extreme and dangerous phenomena for the planet and people.

Drought in Europe is getting worse, read what the future holds for our rivers.

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