Southern Europe is bracing for a summer of ferocious drought, with some regions already suffering water shortages and farmers expecting their worst yields in decades.
As climate change makes the region hotter and drier, years of consecutive drought have depleted groundwater reserves. Soils have become bone dry in Spain and southern France. Low river and reservoir levels are threatening this summer’s hydropower production.
With temperatures climbing into summertime, scientists warn Europe is on track for another brutal summer, after suffering its hottest on record last year – which fuelled a drought European Union researchers said was the worst in at least 500 years.
So far this year, the situation is most severe in Spain.
“The situation of drought is going to worsen this summer,” said Jorge Olcina, professor of geographic analysis at the University of Alicante, Spain.
There’s little chance at this point of rainfall resolving the underlying drought, either. “At this time of the year, the only thing we can have are punctual and local storms, which are not going to solve the rainfall deficit,” Olcina said.
Seeking emergency EU assistance, Spain’s Agriculture Minister Luis Planas warned that “the situation resulting from this drought is of such magnitude that its consequences cannot be tackled with national funds alone,” according to an April 24 letter sent to the European Commission (EC) and seen by Reuters.