Parts of Portugal and Spain are drier than they have been in 1200 years, according to new research. In Italy, the government has launched a massive crisis package against drought.
The drought is the result of an atmospheric high-pressure system driven by climate change, especially in the last 100 years, according to research published by the American journal Nature Geoscience on Monday.
The Azores high pressure, located south of the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, has a major effect on weather and long-term climate trends in Western Europe.
As the azure high pressure has expanded in line with climate change, winters in the western Mediterranean have become drier, the researchers behind the report state.
This will lead to an increasing risk of drought on the Iberian Peninsula and threaten agriculture. Other countries in southern Europe have also been hit by severe drought.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Monday declared a state of crisis and announced measures in response to the severe drought that has hit parts of the country.
Northern Italy hard hit
A crisis package of 36.5 million euros, approximately 370 million Norwegian kroner, was approved at a cabinet meeting late Monday night.
The northern part of Italy is particularly hard hit, and the large lakes, including Lake Garda, hold much less water than is normal at this time of year.
The country’s longest river, Po, is at its lowest level in over 70 years in some places along the river course. The river is very important for the irrigation of rice fields, fields and pastures for cows. According to the authorities, the lack of water for cattle can threaten the production of parmesan cheese, which is made from milk.
In the regions of Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardia, Piedmont and Veneto, a state of crisis has been declared. In some towns and villages in northern Italy, such as in the Verona region of Veneto, the authorities have imposed restrictions and asked residents to save water.
– Never seen the river like this
The drought also has major consequences for southern Italy. In the student Tiber, which flows through the capital Rome, plants growing on the river bed can be seen on the surface and debris floating in the shallow water.
– I have over 40 years of experience on the Tiber, and I have never seen the student like this, says the boatman Giulio Bendandi.
This year, Italy has received only half of what has been average rainfall in the same period over the past 30 years, according to the state research body CNR.