Europe’s drought is officially the worst in 500 years

The Global Drought Observatory says that nearly half of the continent is suffering

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
Effect of drought on river in Europe
Photograph: Shutterstock

If you’ve been trekking around pretty much anywhere in Europe over the past few weeks, you’ll have noticed things are looking a little… parched. Much of the continent is suffering from an unprecedented drought. In fact, according to one report, it could be the continent’s worst drought in over 500 years. 

Just think about that for a sec. The last time conditions were this bad was at least half a millennium ago. In Europe, that was the time of the Renaissance, Henry VIII, frolicking knights and buccaneering conquistadors. In other words, the continent hasn’t been this dry in a really long time.

The report comes from the Global Drought Observatory, which says that 47 percent of all the continent is in ‘warning’ conditions and that 17 percent has an ‘alert’ status. The situation is particularly dire for areas that also experienced drought in the springtime, like northern Italy and southeastern France.

In practical terms, the drought is already having serious repercussions across the continent. Farmers are facing lower crop yields and wildfires are taking hold in particularly dry, arid areas. Huge rivers like the Rhine, Danube and Loire, all usually known for strong flows, are getting so low that they’re even revealing long-lost stuff like bombs and shipwrecks.

The extreme conditions are almost certainly the result of global warming, which increases the likelihood of adverse weather events such as droughts and heatwaves. In fact, another study last year said that the period since 2014 has been Europe’s hottest and driest spell for two millennia.

In better news, the report predicts that normal levels of rain are set to return to most of Europe over the next couple of months – though it’s going to take a very wet winter for things to get anywhere close to normal. And in certain areas of Spain, Portugal and Croatia, it looks like the drier weather will persist.

If you’re interested in reading the full report, you can do so here. And remember to turn that tap off while you brush your teeth, won’t you?

Did you see that Spain is banning people from setting their air-con below 27C?

Plus: scientists reckon 50C summers in Europe could become the norm.

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