Extreme Central Europe Droughts Could Occur Seven Times More Often

by Daanyal Raja

New research suggests that it is probable that extreme droughts will become very frequent across much of central Europe, and if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, they could occur nearly seven times more often. 

Two of the warmest summer periods ever recorded in Central Europe were during 2018 and 2019. Compared to previous summers, both 2018 and 2019 were significantly warmer, drier, and caused more damage to surrounding environments on a much larger scale. Crops were ruined, wildfires became a prevalent issue, and rivers and other bodies of water dried up. Only other drought on record that is comparable to both of these occurred in 1949 and 1950, which impacted a much smaller area of land.

Researchers from UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany utilized historical records dating back to 1766 as well as computer models of climate change in order to predict that a slight decline in greenhouse gas levels would significantly reduce the probability of these extreme droughts from occurring. Furthermore, a slight decline could also reduce the impacted area of land by approximately 40%.

One of the study’s authors, Rohini Kumar, told the Guardian, “The findings indicate that introducing measures to reduce future carbon emissions may lower the risk of more frequent consecutive drought events across Europe. On the one hand, we need to step up our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide, and at the same time deal with strategies to adapt to climate change.”

Kumar also added that by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the frequency of these droughts could drop to “a very negligible number.”

Constantin Zohner from the Crowther Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, a scientist who was not involved in the research, stated that the study emphasizes some of the possible consequences that could occur if we keep downplaying climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Zohner told the Guardian “[These] findings are an important warning to the world that continued emissions will strongly exacerbate future drought events, threatening ecosystems, agriculture and human wellbeing […] The study, once more, highlights the urgent need for climate action in order to maintain the functionality of ecosystems and ensure water supply to future generations.”