Drought Expected to Hit Europe Again, Scientists Warn

Dry weather is expected to persist in much of Europe throughout the summer, especially in the central and Mediterranean regions.

Abandoned old village of Aceredo, Galicia, Spain
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Apr. 4, 2023 18:29 UTC
Abandoned old village of Aceredo, Galicia, Spain

After a win­ter of below-aver­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion, cli­mate sci­en­tists have warned that drought might again beset Europe this sum­mer.

In the sum­mer of 2022, the continent’s dri­est of the past 500 years, con­sec­u­tive and pro­longed heat­waves and drought dom­i­nated south­ern and south­west­ern European, severely impact­ing crops.

Given that much of Europe expe­ri­enced below-aver­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els dur­ing the recent win­ter, it is rea­son­able to assume that drought con­di­tions will per­sist dur­ing the upcom­ing sum­mer months.- Burak Bulut, researcher, CNRS

Consequently, olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries, includ­ing Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, saw a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in their 2022/23 olive oil yields.

However, the drought’s effects are not lim­ited to the Mediterranean basin: mild win­ter weather, which brought low amounts of rain and snow, has exac­er­bated Europe’s water deficit prob­lem, with vast areas becom­ing drier than usual.

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Honestly, all over cen­tral Europe, this issue, it’s a wide­spread prob­lem,” said Carmelo Cammalleri of the Polytechnic University of Milan, refer­ring to European water scarcity.

According to a study by the Graz University of Technology in Austria, Europe has been in a drought since 2018, with its water sta­tus char­ac­ter­ized as very pre­car­i­ous.”

Scientists have seri­ously ques­tioned the abil­ity of Europe’s water reser­voirs to replen­ish before sum­mer.

Clearly, in some parts of Europe, the lack of pre­cip­i­ta­tion and the cur­rent deficit is such that it won’t be easy for water lev­els to recover before the start of the sum­mer,” said Andrea Toreti, a senior sci­en­tist at the European Drought Observatory.

What is unusual is the recur­rence of these [drought] events because we already expe­ri­enced a severe to extreme drought a year ago and another one in 2018,” he added.

According to Burak Bulut, a French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) researcher, last summer’s drought had set in on Europe much ear­lier.

We looked at water bal­ance anom­alies from December 2021 to August 2022,” Bulut told Olive Oil Times. Based on both our research and obser­va­tions from other sources, it is evi­dent that the drought con­di­tions expe­ri­enced dur­ing the sum­mer of 2022 actu­ally began in the win­ter of 2021.”

Bulut noted that the dry period is con­tin­u­ing in Europe and much of the world, adding that any aver­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion should not be con­sid­ered a return to a sem­blance of nor­mal­ity.

As we are cur­rently at the end of March and the drought con­di­tions are still present, it is accu­rate to state that the dry period is ongo­ing,” he said. In real­ity, it appears that we are expe­ri­enc­ing a drought not only within Europe but in most parts of the globe.”

It is impor­tant to note that even when pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els are near the long-term aver­age, the impacts of drought are becom­ing more evi­dent due to ris­ing tem­per­a­tures and the result­ing increase in evap­o­ra­tion and tran­spi­ra­tion,” Bulut added.

Bulut pre­dicts another dry sum­mer for Europe, dri­ven by higher-than-usual tem­per­a­tures. He also iden­ti­fied an antic­i­pated shift in the drought effects from the south­west to the south­east of the Mediterranean region.

Given that much of Europe expe­ri­enced below-aver­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els dur­ing the recent win­ter, it is rea­son­able to assume that drought con­di­tions will per­sist dur­ing the upcom­ing sum­mer months,” he said.


Based on trend stud­ies, it has been deter­mined that we are cur­rently expe­ri­enc­ing a three-month period (March to May) of higher tem­per­a­tures and lower pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els, par­tic­u­larly in south­east Europe and the Mediterranean region,” Bulut added.

As a result of these find­ings, it is antic­i­pated that the sum­mer sea­son will be char­ac­ter­ized by above-aver­age tem­per­a­tures and drier con­di­tions in these regions,” he con­tin­ued.

Bulut said the impacts of drought are expected to per­sist, even if spring rains man­age to mit­i­gate some of the water deficit in cer­tain areas.

By com­par­ing drought peri­ods in Europe from 1836 to 2021, the researchers at CNRS have also iden­ti­fied the drought of 2022 as being par­tially anthro­pogenic.

Climate change linked to human activ­i­ties con­tributes to the occur­rence of pro­longed drought episodes like the one that affected Western Europe and the Mediterranean region in 2022,” the researchers wrote.

The results under­score the impor­tance of con­tin­u­ing efforts to reduce green­house gas emis­sions and mit­i­gate the effects of cli­mate change,” they added.

Meanwhile, António Guterres, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the United Nations, urged polit­i­cal lead­ers world­wide to inten­sify their efforts to pre­serve global water resources.

All of humanity’s hopes for the future depend, in some way, on chart­ing a new course to man­age and con­serve water sus­tain­ably,” Guterres said at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference held in New York last month, the first global water con­ven­tion in almost 50 years.

It needs to be at the cen­ter of the polit­i­cal agenda,” he con­cluded.

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