Drought threatens 60% of the European Union, UK

Drought conditions are affecting around 60% of the EU and the UK, exacerbated by record heat due to climate change across Europe this summer, according to a new study from the European Drought Observatory.

Why is this important: Dry conditions are severely affecting energy production, agriculture and river transport, with countries like France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands facing water shortages and drying up riverbeds across Europe.

  • This leads to “increased fire danger due to the lack of rain and resulting dry vegetation, combined with high temperatures”, notes the European Union’s Copernicus climate change service, as the fires forests continue to burn across Europe.
  • While many European countries are expected to experience continued dry conditions in August and September, this adds concern “to the already very critical situation”, the European Commission’s European Drought Observatory noted in July.
  • It would also “aggravate the severity of the drought and the impacts on agriculture, energy and water supply”, according to the Observatory.

The big picture: The European Drought Observatory looked at data over a 10-day period towards the end of July and found that 45% of EU territory was under drought warning conditions by the middle of the month, while 15% were on “red alert” and in severe water deficiency.

  • In England, the East Anglia, South East and South regions experienced their driest July ever as a historic heat wave hit, according to the UK Met Office.

What they say : “Droughts have become our summer reality,” tweeted Virginijus SinkeviciusEuropean Commission Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries on Tuesday.

  • 100 municipalities in France have no running water, Rhine levels in Germany and France are so low that freight transport is threatened and the Netherlands “faces an official water shortage”, a noted Sinkevičius.
  • “Restoring nature is the best solution to change this,” he added.

What to watch: Another heatwave is expected to hit parts of northwestern and central Europe this week, as the UK’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology warned on Wednesday that dry conditions would persist until October.

  • The Met Office issued another amber heat warning for much of southern England and parts of Wales from Thursday to Sunday, following its first-ever extreme heat warning last month.
In photos: Drought devastates European landscapes
People sit on Primrose Hill in London, England on August 9 where the grass is dry due to lack of water. The Met Office has issued an orange warning for extreme heat covering four days from August 11-14 for parts of England and Wales as a new heat wave looms. Photo: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images via Getty Images
This photograph taken on August 9, 2022 shows a partially dried up pond near Aire-sur-Adour, in southwestern France.
A partially dried up pond near Aire-sur-Adour, in southwestern France, on August 9. -The French government has activated a working group on the drought crisis. Water restrictions have been decreed in almost all of the 96 metropolitan departments. Photo: Gaizka A Iroz/AFP via Getty Images
General view of low water levels continuing along the Rhine in Bad Honnef, Germany, on August 9.
The dry bed of the Rhine in Bad Honnef, Germany, on August 9. Photo: Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Boulders in view due to drought in the river bed at Escairon, Lugo, Galicia, Spain.
Boulders in view due to drought in the river bed in Escairon, Lugo, Galicia, Spain, on August 9. Photo: Carlos Castro/Europa Press via Getty Images
People walk on the parched Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris August 3 after France recorded its driest July on record.
People walk on the parched Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris August 3 after France recorded its driest July on record. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images
People sit on the dry banks of the Rhine on August 3, 2022 in Cologne, Germany.
The dried up banks of the Rhine in Cologne, Germany, on August 3. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Go further: Earth experiences top 3 hottest Julys, marked by killer heat and flash floods