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Hot? Thirsty? This may be the new Normal

Europe its experiencing its worst-ever drought, with deadly heatwaves, wildfires, water restrictions, scorched grasslands and dry riverbeds.

France had its driest July on record. Temperatures topped 40° Celsius in some places. Wildfires tore through the Gironde region of southwestern France, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of 10,000 residents.

Scarcities of milk and cheese are expected as livestock struggles to feed on parched grassland and irrigation is banned in some areas. More than 100 French municipalities have no running drinking water. Some 50,000 hectares in France have burnt since the beginning of the year.

Drought and successive heat waves augment the number and intensity of the fires. Apparently extinguished fires can start up again due to the presence of smouldering peat beneath the soil.

Spain's water reserves are at all-time low as the country has been getting less than half its normal rainfall during the past three months.

Italy's River Po is flowing at one tenth its usual rate and its water level is 2 meters below normal. Drinking water is rationed in several regions.

In Germany, water levels are falling in the many lakes fed by the River Spree.

In Switzerland, the dairy industry has been hard hit as mountain pastures dry.

Belgium reported the driest July since 1885. Despite a ban on farmers pumping water for crops, groundwater levels in Flanders are exceptionally low causing peatlands to dry out, raising concern about wildlife.

Dry lawn in Greenwich Park, England
Dry lawn in Greenwich Park, England

Even the UK recorded a record temperature of over 40° C (104° F). South-east England received less than 10% of its usual amount of rainfall in July. One scientist noted,“The scale of heatwaves and droughts we’re currently experiencing has been projected by climate research for many years now. What we are seeing is a clear signal of what the future is going to be like.” Another observed, “We are starting to see real issues for crops such as potatoes. We will see reduced yields and particularly reduced quality.” Some drying rivers may be reaching “a point of no return”.

The IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report predicts that temperatures will rise in all European areas at a rate exceeding global mean temperature changes.

When are we gonna stop burning those fossil fuels?

-Julie Wornan



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