Europe is going through a historic drought that threatens food security

Cracked and dry earth in a pond. An exceptional drought in winter that has put governments on alert (Reuters) (Eric Gaillard /)

The European winter had good news, temperatures that were not freezing. This climatic “bonanza” made it possible to avoid the energy shortage derived from the war in Ukraine, although it came with alarming levels due to low rainfall. A drought in the middle of winter so exceptional that it has put the authorities under emergency plans.

One of the most dramatic situations is experienced by Cataloniain Spain. After more than two years with almost no rain, the authorities have had to heavily ration the use of water, affecting some 6 million people and 200 municipalities, including Barcelona and Girona. Supply levels are 27% full.

France It is also once again facing an unprecedented episode: in some departments in the south of the country, watering gardens and sports stadiums or filling swimming pools has been prohibited. Even in some towns permits will not be given to build new pools, at least for the next 5 years. But also the order has reached the farmers.

In a context of record rainfall deficit on a national scale, the president Emmanuel Macron urged the French to adopt a “water sobriety plan” modeled on “energy sobriety,” referring to the “end of plenty.”

“We know that we will face problems of water scarcity like last summer: instead of organizing under duress at the last moment with conflicts of use, we must plan all this,” explained the French head of state.

Also in Italy several lakes and ponds present states only seen during very dry summers. Levels in Lakes Po, Garda, Maggiore or d’Iseo have a lower level than during the summer drought of 2022. The image of a path to the Isola di San Biagio on Lake Garda went viral showing how it can be reach the “Isla de los rabbits” on foot.

The photo of a path to the Isola di San Biagio on Lake Garda traveled the world showing how you can reach the
The photo of a path to the Isola di San Biagio on Lake Garda traveled the world showing how to reach the “island of rabbits” on foot (Reuters) (ALEX FRASER /)

In addition to bleak landscapes, the unprecedented winter drought has brought warnings across the continent of threats to food, water security and even energy production. According to Graz University of Technology in Austria, Europe has been in a severe drought since 2018, causing precipitously low groundwater levels.

The combination of consecutive dry spells suggests that this summer could be worse than last year, when the continent experienced a dry spell not seen in 500 years.

A study of European Drought Observatory shows that large parts of France and the United Kingdom have a soil moisture deficit. Much of Ireland is red, indicating threats to vegetation growth. The satellite data of the experts of the terrestrial observation service of the EU Copernicusconfirm that the continent is too dry.

For Samantha Burgess, co-director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, “Although some rain fell in the autumn, which eased the situation in Europe somewhat, the winter was now very dry.” Climate experts assume the winter that ended was the second warmest since records began.

another researcher, Andre Torettiof the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, assured that “given the current situation and considering the long-term effects of the 2022 drought, if there is not enough rainfall in the coming weeks, there is a high risk of yield losses, together with impacts on energy production, the river transport and ecosystems”

People in the UK have had to ration basic vegetables for their salads due to a shortage of fresh vegetables (AP)
People in the UK have had to ration basic vegetables for their salads due to a shortage of fresh vegetables (AP) (Yui Mok /)

It is added that the alpine region has received half of the usual snowfall. It has not only been a complex winter for winter sports centers. “It means unfavorable initial conditions for spring and the warm season. Snow is nothing more than stored precipitation,” explained the climate system researcher. Klaus Haslinger of the Austrian weather and climate service Geosphere.

The storms and floods that the continent has also experienced in recent months have not sufficiently filled the groundwater tables. The set of scenarios makes sustainable water management one of the most difficult challenges that European governments will have to face.

But while the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Now he expects “more or less average conditions for the entire Mediterranean region”, some normality for the next few weeks, the gondolas begin to show certain shortages.

The scarcity of water in crops is having, for example, consequences on the shelves of British supermarkets. Although it also affects the derivations of Brexit, some rationing in the amount of vegetables is related to lower production.

Keep reading:

Two German teenagers stabbed a 12-year-old girl to death

A Russian plane attacked a US drone that was patrolling over international waters of the Black Sea

The reasons for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank: an expert analyzes the bank’s ill-advised decisions