Europe still burning in extreme heat, drought
Thousands of people have died in Europe this summer from historic heat waves that have fueled massive wildfires. The weather has been far from normal — and even a casual observer cannot help but notice that something is amiss.
Yet, as temperatures spike and flames scorch parched landscape, there’s an even more widespread and potentially disastrous climate-fueled hazard wreaking havoc on the continent: extreme drought.
Months of scant rainfall and above-average temperatures have entrenched the region in drought, the worst on record in some countries.
It is intensifying heat waves and boosting the danger posed by wildfires, all the while wreaking havoc on crops and having a serious impact on the economy.
According to the European Drought Observatory, nearly half of Europe is under “warning” conditions, which connote a severe drought and a major soil moisture deficit. An additional 17 percent of Europe has reached the threshold at which vegetation suffers, in some cases dying out or thinning.
Far and wide, farmers have been struggling to grapple with the arid conditions.
Andrea Toreti, senior scientist at the European Drought Observatory, told Sky News that the drought is on pace to be the worst in 500 years.
A dry autumn and winter meant groundwater heading into spring and summer was already low. The extreme temperatures observed so far this summer, intensified by human-caused climate change, have helped dry that water up.
During July, southern parts of Britain, including London, received only 10 to 20 percent of their average rainfall, and in some cases next to nothing. London picked up barely a millimeter of rainfall (0.04 inches), compared to an average of 45 millimeters (1.77 inches).
Satellite imagery shows parks in London, green one year ago, now brown.
Britain’s Meteorological, or Met, Office confirmed that it was southern England’s driest July on record and the driest July countrywide since 1935.
Comparing satellite imagery of the land surface over England and northern France between this year and last year reveals a stark change: In the summer of 2021, much of the region was lush and green; in 2022, the area is brown and barren.
The drought in France is also among the worst on record.
Météo-France, the nation’s meteorological service, issued a bulletin stating that the country had experienced its driest July on record, with total precipitation about 85 percent below average.
Amid the drought, water shortages have become prevalent in Spain, Italy, France and the Netherlands. Some major rivers — such as the Rhine in Germany — are becoming precariously shallow. Reuters reports that freight shipping costs on the Rhine have more than quintupled, and many larger vessels have been reduced to carrying only 30 to 40 percent of their capacity. Otherwise, they risk running aground.