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Western Europe’s drought may be worst in 500 years

The drought in Europe may be the worst in 500 years and isn’t getting any better. Rivers are running low or dry; crops, commerce and fish are in danger and the fire risk is growing.

It hasn’t remained significantly in months under the hot summer sun.

The drought underway across western Europe has been accompanied by waves of intense heat for months as droughts so often are — and the situation has grown worse after two months of no significant rain across a wide swath of western Europe.

The UK has just gone through its driest July since 1935. These are but the latest ramifications of a changing climate which is behind the alteration in the paths of critical rain-generating jet streams. As the Associated Press reports, “Europe isn’t alone in the crisis, with drought conditions also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.”

Rivers are so low in Germany, barge traffic on the country’s waterways are being seriously impacted. The drought in the Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal, is characterized as the worst there in 1,200 years and the president of the Italian Meteorological Society is being called the worst there in 230 years with serious impacts on crops and river levels there.

Reports the AP, “The Rhine, Germany’s biggest waterway, could reach critical low levels in the coming days. Water levels near the town of Kaub are forecast to fall to 35 centimeters (14 inches) by Tuesday, said Bastian Klein of the German Federal Institute of Hydrology. Only small or specially designed ships can navigate in such conditions.

Klein adds, “Industries that depend on inland shipping and transport on the Rhine are of course affected, as there’s less transport capacity for raw materials or finished products.’

On the Danube, authorities in Serbia have started dredging to keep vessels moving.

In neighboring Hungary, wide parts of Lake Velence near Budapest have turned into patches of dried mud, beaching small boats. Aeration and water circulation equipment have been installed to protect wildlife, but water quality has deteriorated. A ban on swimming was imposed at one beach on weekends. Stretches of the Po, Italy’s longest river, are so low that barges and boats that sank decades ago are resurfacing. The drought also has affected England, which last month had its driest July since 1935, according to the Met Office weather agency. The lack of rain has depleted reservoirs, rivers and groundwater and left grasslands brown and tinder-dry.”

The European Drought Observatory reports 47% of the European Union is under a “DROUGHT WARNING” and another 17% is under a drought alert.

Politico is out with an article on the UK government’s declaration of drought in parts of the region.

You can read more about the European drought situation here.


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