Friday, June 9, 2023

Southern Europe braces for a summer of drought caused by climate change

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Southern Europe is bracing for a severe dry summer, with some regions already suffering from water shortages and farmers expecting their worst harvests in decades.

As climate change makes the region hotter and drier, successive years of drought have depleted groundwater reserves. Soils have dried up in Spain and southern France. Hydroelectric power generation is at risk from low levels of rivers and reservoirs this summer.

With rising summer temperatures, scientists warn Europe is headed for another brutal summer, after suffering the hottest ever recorded last year which fueled a drought, EU researchers say. It was the worst in at least 500 years.

The situation in Spain is more dire so far this year.

“The drought is going to get worse this summer,” says Jorge Olsina, professor of geophysical analysis at the University of Alicante in Spain.

At this point, there is also not much chance that rain will solve the underlying drought. “At this time of year, the only things we may have are timely and localized storms, which are not going to solve the lack of rainfall,” Olsina said.

Calling for urgent help from the European Union, according to a letter sent on 24 April, Spain’s Agriculture Minister Luis Planas warned that “the situation created by this drought is so dire that its consequences cannot be addressed with national funds alone”. May go.” European Commission and which Reuters had access to.

Climate change trend

Southern Europe is not alone in suffering from severe water shortages this year. The Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in decades, while a record drought in Argentina has devastated soybean and corn crops.

An increase in the frequency and severity of droughts in the Mediterranean region, where average temperatures are 1.5ºC higher than 150 years ago, coincides with scientists’ predictions of the impact of climate change in the region.

“In terms of a climate change signal, this is in line with what we expected,” says Hayley Fowler, professor of climate change impacts at Newcastle University.

Despite these forecasts, preparations are running behind schedule. Many agricultural sectors have not yet adopted water-saving methods, such as precision irrigation, or switched to more drought-resistant crops, such as sunflowers.

“Governments are late. Businesses are late,” says Robert Voutard, climatologist and director of France’s Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute. “Some companies don’t even think about changing their consumption model, they just try to find some miracle technology that makes water available,” he said.

As France emerges from its driest winter since 1959, drought “crisis” alerts are already active in four departmental provinces, restricting the withdrawal of non-priority water, including agriculture, according to government website Propluvia .

Also Portugal is experiencing the early arrival of drought. About 90% of the continental area suffers from drought, and severe drought affects a fifth of the country, almost five times the area registered a year ago.

In Spain, which received less than half the average rainfall in April this year, thousands of people depend on tankers for drinking water, and some regions such as Catalonia have imposed water restrictions.

Some farmers reported losses of up to 80% of their crops, including cereals and oilseeds.

“This is the worst crop loss in decades,” says Pekka Pessonen, president of the European agriculture group Kopa-Kogeka. “It’s worse than last year’s situation.”

According to the Commission, Spain is responsible for half of Community production of olives and a third of the fruit.

At a time when its reservoirs are 50% full on average, the country last week allocated more than 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to an emergency response fund. The country is still awaiting a response from the European Commission on its request to raise 450 million euros from the bloc’s budget for farm subsidies.

The commission has said that it is closely monitoring the situation.

“The severe drought in southern Europe is particularly worrying, not only for farmers, but also because if EU production is significantly lower it could push up already very high consumer prices,” Miriam said. Garcia Ferrer, spokesperson for the Commission.

Similar difficulties may arise in Italy, as 80% of the country’s water supply goes to agriculture. Faced with less snow cover in the mountains and less soil moisture this year, Italian farmers plan to reduce the area planted to summer crops by 6% compared to last year, according to national data on planting intentions Is.

After two years of water scarcity, some regions of northern Italy started the month of May with a 70% reduction in snow water reserves and a 40% reduction in soil moisture, Luca Bocca, research director of the Italian National Research Council According to.

Because the ground is so dry, it doesn’t get wet when it rains, with disastrous results. At least three people were killed in floods in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, where rain is expected to continue for several hours, Italian officials said on Wednesday.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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