Europe: The last drought was the worst in 250 years

No drought covering such a large portion of the continent for such a long time has indeed been observed since the middle of the 18th century, writes a team of international researchers, under the wing of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, in Germany. Their work, published in march in the journal of the American Geophysical Union, reconstructs all documented droughts in Europe since 1766.

Scientists define as “drought” the period during which the water content of the first 2 meters of the soil falls below the level of the 20% of the driest years of the last two and a half centuries. Between 2018 and 2020, this was the case for an unusually large region, including France, Germany and the Czech Republic. And unusually long, since the average duration of droughts since the 18th century was 13 months. All this, accompanied by a higher temperature, on average, of 2.8 degrees Celsius compared to normal.

The researchers also note that this drought extended into 2021 in deeper soils: the higher precipitation obviously did not go deeper than 2 meters.

Among other consequences: 20 to 40% lower corn production in Germany and France; wheat production reduced by 17.5% in Germany; and barley production decreased by 10% in almost all of Europe.

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