Europe Facing Worst Drought in 500 Years, Report Finds
Paris – The European continent is facing its worst drought in 500 years, according to the findings of a report by the Global Drought Monitor, published Wednesday by French daily Le Figaro.
At the time of publication of the report, 47% of the European continent is still under a drought warning; 17% is under an alert, which means that vegetation and crops are severely weakened by the lack of water; and a total of 64% of Europe is under a warning or alert, which contributes to a significant increase in the areas at risk of fire throughout the European Union, according to the authors of the document.
Exceptionally hot and dry weather conditions have significantly reduced the yield prospects for EU summer crops, they maintained, adding that final data at the end of the season will confirm this preliminary assessment.
Current forecasts for maize, soybean and sunflower at the EU level are 16%, 15% and 12% below the 5-year average, respectively, note experts from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. On the other hand, the warm and dry conditions have benefited winter crop harvests, which have seen a slight improvement in yield expectations, they say.
This summer, almost all of the continent’s rivers have dried up, causing the hydroelectric power generated in Europe to fall by 20% in recent months, the report also warns.
In Portugal, the hydroelectric power stored in water reservoirs is less than half the average of the previous five years. In Italy, the Po River Basin Authority has confirmed the current classification at the highest level of drought severity. The hydroelectric power potential stored in the northern water reserves remains less than half of the country’s power generation capacity, the same source said.
In France, more than 100 municipalities have had water supply problems linked in part to the numerous forest fires that have devastated forests. According to the European Forest Fire Information System, more than 60,000 hectares of land have burned since the beginning of 2022, more than double that of 2021.
“The combination of severe drought and heat waves is putting unprecedented pressure on water levels across the EU,” comments Mariya Gabriel, the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. “Climate change is undoubtedly becoming more noticeable every year,” they added.