A Long, Dry Spell

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We’ve often covered the drought conditions in parts of the US and the eventual slow recovery. Montana is currently faring worst, with large areas of extreme to exceptional drought in the northeastern part of the state. California is in pretty good shape these days. But parts of Europe are now experiencing the kind of thing we recently went through, as this article explains, and some scientists believe the once-rare conditions are becoming the new norm there.

The problems caused by the drought, which is affecting southern Europe, are familiar: shrinking lakes that are sources of drinking water, reduced snowpack, more and larger forest fires. Water levels in Italy’s Lake Bracciano fell so low during the summer that withdrawals were temporarily stopped, threatening Rome’s water supply.

Agriculture has also been hit hard. The problem is twofold: there has been less rainfall, and the region has also been experiencing higher temperatures, which are not necessarily related. The two conditions are combining with devastating effects. In parts of Spain, farmers are expected to lose up to 70% of their crops. Farmers in some European countries like Slovenia traditionally don’t irrigate their crops—they haven’t had to—and seem to be resistant to do so now. They’re also reluctant to switch to more drought-resistant crops or at least to diversify what they plant.
An international organization, the Drought Management Centre for Southeastern Europe, is monitoring conditions and publishes monthly bulletins and maps, somewhat as the US Drought Monitor does here. Experts disagree, though, on the long-term outlook. Data from the last 30 years show seasonally drier conditions near the Mediterranean than before, especially during the hotter months of the year, but rainier conditions in northern Europe.EC_bug_web

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