Climate: the extreme drought in Europe set to repeat

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The “unprecedented 250-year-old” drought episode that hit Europe for two consecutive summers in 2018 and 2019 is likely to recur much more often by the end of the century, due to global warming, highlights keeps a study published Thursday.

In 2003, Europe had already been hit by an exceptional heatwave and drought, causing serious damage to agriculture.

In 2018, the phenomenon recurred, but the episode continued over the following year, until the summer of 2019.

Using data going back to 1766, the study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports “shows that the droughts of two consecutive summers in 2018 and 2019 are unprecedented for 250 years, and their combined impact on plant growth is greater. stronger than the drought of 2003 ”.

The consecutive droughts of 1949-1950 are ranked second, but the affected territory had been much smaller.

The researchers estimate that the 2018-2019 episode affected more than half of Central Europe (from France to Poland, via Italy or Germany).

And because of the effects of climate change, if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such an event is seven times more likely to happen again in the second half of the 21st century.

In this scenario, “projections also show that the affected agricultural areas across central Europe would almost double,” to reach 40 million hectares of crops, one of the authors, Rohini told AFP. Kumar, from the Helmholtz Environmental Research Center in Germany.

But this repetition would be significantly reduced, up to more than twice, if the world succeeded in significantly reducing CO2 emissions.

“This proves that putting in place measures to reduce emissions could reduce the risk of consecutive drought episodes in Europe,” Rohini Kumar insisted.

The occurrence of major drought episodes two consecutive years is particularly problematic for plants that need time to recover from the heat and lack of water.

So “it is urgent to recognize the importance of these persistent events, and to develop a complete model to model the risks”, insists the researcher.

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