Friday, September 30, 2022

Historical drought wreaks havoc in nearly half of Europe

LUX, France ( Associated Press) — Lux, a town in the Burgundy region of what was formerly the River Til, now has only a bed of white dust and thousands of dead fish.

An unprecedented drought is affecting nearly half of the European continent, from Spain’s dry and cracked reservoirs to the chilling low water levels of major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po. It wreaks havoc on economies with strong agricultural sectors, imposes restrictions on water use, causes wildfires and threatens aquatic species.

In Western, Central and Southern Europe, there has been no significant rain for nearly two months. In Britain, where it rains frequently, the government on Friday declared a drought in southern and central England amid the hottest and driest summers ever.

According to experts, the dry period is expected to continue and lead to the worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change is exacerbating the situation as higher temperatures accelerate evaporation, plants require more moisture, and less snowfall in winter limits the amount of fresh water for irrigation in summer.

Walking along a dry bed of lax 15 meters wide, Jean-Philippe Causnay of the Federation of Fisheries and Protection of the Aquatic Environment catalogs the species of fish that are dying in the till.

“It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “Normally about 8,000 liters (2,100 gallons) of water flowed every second. Now, zero liters”.

Upstream, some trout and other freshwater species take refuge in the backwaters with the help of fish ladders. But those systems are not available everywhere.

Unless it rains, the river “will remain dry and the fish will die. They are stuck up and down, but now there is no water coming. The oxygen level will drop along with the water,” said Kausane. “There are species that will gradually disappear.”

The federation’s regional director, Jean-Pierre Sonvico, said diverting water from other rivers is not an option as they are also affected by drought.

“It’s kind of dramatic. We can’t do anything,” he said. “We’re waiting for the rain, but we can’t count on the rain.”

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center said this week that the situation would worsen and could affect up to 47% of the continent.

Andrea Toretti of the European Drought Observatory indicated that there was such a severe drought in 2018 that it said nothing like it had happened in 500 years, “but I think this year is even worse.”

According to meteorologist Peter Hoffmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Berlin, the current situation is the product of a prolonged dry season caused by changes in global climate systems.

“Summer is when we feel it the most,” he said. “But the drought is going on all year long.”

Climate change reduced the difference in temperature between different regions, weakening the forces driving the air currents that normally carry rain from the Atlantic to Europe, he explained.

Weak or unstable air currents can cause unusually hot air and prolonged intense heat.

Drought caused some countries to ban the use of water. The low water level, on the other hand, makes navigation on the Rhine and Danube difficult.

Bastian Klein of the German Federal Institute for Hydrology said that the Rhine, Germany’s largest river, could reach serious water levels in the coming days.

“Industries that use the Rhine to transport their products will be affected,” Klein said.

In the Danube, Serbian authorities have already started dredging to facilitate the movement of boats.

In neighboring Hungary, large parts of Lake Valence near Budapest have dried up.

Parts of the Po, Italy’s longest river, have so little water that boats and motorboats that sunk decades ago run out of water.

Drought is also affecting England, which has the driest July since 1935. Watering the garden has been banned in many places. In the fields, pastoralists have to feed their livestock with winter food because the pastures are dry.

Even countries like Spain and Portugal, which are accustomed to stay for long periods without rain, have been badly affected. In Andalusia, some farmers had to sacrifice hundreds of avocado trees to prevent others from rotting, given that the La Vinuela reservoir in the province of Málaga holds 13% of its capacity.

Some European farmers are using tap water to feed their livestock because ponds and rivers are dry. They consume up to 100 liters per day per animal.

In Burgundy, a normally green area where the Seine grows, the grass is yellow and tractors produce large clouds of dust.

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Dana Beltazzi, Jill Lawless (both from London), Frank Jordan (Berlin), Barry Hatton (Lisbon), Ciaran Giles (Madrid), Dusan Stojanovic (Belgrade) and Bella Szandelski (Budapest) contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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