Europe is struggling with the “worst drought in 500 years”: this is what it looks like

In recent weeks, she’s been searching for a raindrop on weather maps. This summer is dominated by heat and drought and in some places also forest fires. This is one visible consequence of that dehydration. Rivers are also going through a tough time. Not only in Holland, but all over Europe.

The worst drought on record, according to the report Global Drought Observatory. We’ll show you what that looks like in different European countries in this article.

Netherlands: Rhine water level historically low

First of all, our country. The water level in the rivers is particularly striking. The Rhine in Lobeth reached an all-time low last week. Other rivers are also going through hard times.

Water flows through it much less than usual and this has consequences for nearby boats. Because now you can better call it cottages.


And in many places in our country it is now like autumn: there are already piles of brown leaves on the ground. Trees drop their leaves to protect themselves from severe drought. “This greatly weakens the trees,” says biologist Arnold van Vliet in the video below:

Germany: No heavy shipments

Most of the major rivers enter our country through Germany. And you guessed it, they also suffer from low water levels there. For example on the Rhine in Cologne. Some pieces dried out completely.

Other parts can still be sailed, also by cargo ships. But it can not be heavily loaded, otherwise it will get stuck. in This article Read about the economic consequences of this.

Italy: leaving the rocks to swim

In Italy, drought can be seen around Lake Garda.

Usually this peninsula borders directly on the water. Now, if you want to dive, you first have to cross an entire rocky outcrop. Because it is now visible that the water level has dropped significantly.

France: A Romantic Walk in a Withered Garden

The Loire, one of the most famous rivers in France, is completely waterless in some places.

Paris is also suffering from drought. If you want to lie on a towel on the lawn next to the Eiffel Tower, you will lie not on a beautiful green meadow, but on a withered yellow meadow.

UK: Autumn has already begun, hasn’t it?

These withered landscapes can also be found in the UK.

Britain is experiencing one of its driest years on record. And in July, the highest temperature ever recorded was above 40 degrees. All this leads to a remarkable phenomenon. Just look at the picture below.

This photo appears to have been taken in November, but it is not. This phenomenon is also called “fake autumn” in England. The ground was littered with dead leaves due to drought. So the trees didn’t shoot it because it’s autumn.

Low water level in rivers

According to a European Commission report, almost all rivers in Europe have lower than normal water levels. This is partly due to the lack of precipitation, and also because of the less melt water that flows into the rivers from the Alps.

Snow fell there to a lesser extent last winter. Thus, less snow melts. The water that usually goes our way with rivers. This is why you also see that the low water levels have already reached in August. Usually this is around October, when the snow is able to melt all summer long.

Energy sector problems

All the images above show that the drought in 2022 is very present. According to the European Commission, summer could be the driest in Europe in 500 years. This is not a positive thing. Shipping is having a more difficult time, there are wildfires and there are also problems for the energy sector. For example, hydropower generation is more complex and there is less cooling water for other power plants.

And so there are warnings, sometimes even warnings, for many areas in Europe. In total, this concerns about two-thirds of the entire continent. Where exactly, it can be seen on the map below:

The yellow zones should be monitored, in the orange zones there are warnings and in the red zones it is already an error. It’s drier than it should be. 47 percent of Europe turns orange, 17 percent turns red.

There are no swimming pools in England

In those areas, you have to be very careful not to grill on the lawn and use water in moderation. Therefore, in the south of England, it is often colored red on the map, from today the filling of swimming pools and car washes is prohibited.

We’ve already mentioned that drought is fueling wildfires, causing water levels to drop and potentially causing problems for the energy sector. But there is more. For example, if you look at the harvest. For example, yields of corn, soybeans and sunflowers have fallen sharply: 12 to 16 percent below the average of the past five years. And that the sunflower is going through a hard time, it can be clearly seen in the photo below.

Looks like these sunflowers are going to have a hard time. Experts expect it to be drier and warmer than usual in western and southern Europe through November.

What can we do about drought?

Yellow landscapes, sandy banks instead of rivers and unprecedented heat. This summer produces stunning images, but it’s not always fun. Climate change means that such summers will become more frequent. Heat increases evaporation, which also increases the chance of dehydration. Can we do something about it and/or deal with it better? We ask our climate expert Bart Verheijn.

“The goal of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is that they stay in the air for a long time and spread around the world. This means that emissions around the world have to come down in order to limit climate change,” Verheijen says. “This is the only way to tackle the problem at the source and prevent it from getting worse.”

But of course this will not work in a short time. Thus, Verheijen says, it would have been better for the Netherlands to adapt to the changing climate in the meantime. If you are talking about drought, it would be good to be more resilient with the excess precipitation we usually have in winter.

“We usually move that surplus quickly toward the North Sea,” Verheijen says. “For example, we keep the water level artificially low, so that farmers can reach the land with their heavy machinery. You can also keep this water in the ground. Then the farmers have to wait a while with their heavy machinery, but then they have less chance of water shortage. in summer “.

By the way, it also works in reverse. Climate change can also cause heavy rains, as we saw last summer. “The Netherlands has more experience in this matter. For example, there is a ‘room for the river’ programme. In this, plots of land have been allocated that can be submerged in a controlled manner at high water levels. This is one of the reasons that the repercussions of last summer’s heavy rainfall, No matter how serious it was, it turned out to be less catastrophic than in Germany and Belgium. ”

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