Southern Europe braces itself for a summer of fiercely dry weather. Farmers are expecting their lowest yields for years. Some regions already experience water shortages.
The climate change has made the area hotter and the years of droughts depleted groundwater reserves. The soils in Spain, southern France, and Italy are arid. This summer, hydropower production is threatened by low river and reservoir levels.
Scientists say that Europe is in for another brutal summer due to the rising temperatures. Last year Europe experienced the warmest summer on record. This fueled a European Union scientist’s report that was the worst drought in at least500 years.
Spain has been most affected by the crisis this year.
Jorge Olcina, a professor of geography in Spain at the University of Alicante, is an expert on climate change. He stated that “the drought situation will worsen in the summer”.
There’s little hope that rain can end the drought at this point. Olcina said that, at this time of the year, “the most we can hope for is localized storms. This would not be enough to make up for the lack of rainfall”.
Luis Planas, the Spanish agriculture minister, requested urgent EU assistance in a letter sent to the European Commission by Luis Planas on 24 April. He said that “the effects of this drought are severe enough that they can’t be dealt with by national funds alone”.
CLIMATE CHANGE TREND
Southern Europe has not been the only area to experience severe water shortages this year. The Horn of Africa experienced the most severe drought in decades. Argentina’s corn and soy crops were hit by a historic drought.
Scientists predict that climate change in the Mediterranean will lead to more severe and frequent droughts, as temperatures have risen by 1.5C since 150 years ago.
Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University. She said: “The climate change signals are very much in line with what we expected.”
Preparations for these long-held forecasts are still behind schedule. Many farming areas still haven’t adopted water-saving technologies like precision irrigation or switched to drought resistant crops like sunflowers.
According to Propluvia (the government website), France experienced its driest winter since 1959. Four prefectures have already activated “crisis alerts”, which restrict water withdrawals from non-priority purposes, such as agriculture.
Portugal has also experienced an early appearance of the drought. Around 90% of Portugal’s continental area is suffering from drought. One-fifth of Portugal’s mainland is experiencing a severe drought, five times the amount reported a year earlier.
In Spain, where rain fell at less than half of the normal rate through April this year, thousands depend on trucks to deliver drinking water. Catalonia has implemented water restrictions.
Some farmers have already suffered crop losses up to 80%, according to farming groups. Cereals, oilseeds and other crops were affected.
Pekka Pesonen, of the European farming organization Copa-Cogeca, said that Spain suffered the worst loss in harvest for decades. “It’s worse than last year.”
According to the Commission’s estimates, Spain produces half of the EU’s fruits and olives.
has allocated over EUR2 billion in funding for emergency response last week. The Commission is yet to respond to its request for EUR450 million in EU budget subsidies.
The Commission stated that it closely monitored the situation.
“The severe drought that has hit Southern Europe is particularly worrying. “Not only for farmers, but also for consumers who may see their prices rise if EU production falls substantially,” said Miriam Garcia Ferrer.
Similar struggles are expected in Italy, where up to 80 percent of the water is used for agriculture. Italian farmers are planning to reduce plantings due to low soil moisture and thin snow on the mountains.
Luca Brocca, Director of Research for the Italian National Research Council is a renowned scientist. He stated that, after two years of dry weather in northern Italy, there was a 70% shortage of snow water as well as a 40% deficit of soil moisture.
This deep shortage could cause a repeat of last summer’s most severe drought in 70 years.
Brocca said that “this year seems to also be exceptional.”
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