Fires, heat waves: in England, one of the worst droughts for 90 years

Fires, heat waves: in England, one of the worst droughts for 90 years

In this summer of 2022, Europe is going through exceptional heat waves, droughts and fires. Find the news and analysis that matters in our follow-up article.

Wednesday August 31

English counties facing drought. The South West of England has been in the grip of one of the worst droughts for nearly 90 years. The whole region of Wessex – which notably includes Bristol, the counties of Dorset and Somerset, as well as the south of Gloucestershire – is affected. The few rains that occur during the last two weeks have not been enough to compensate for the drought. The extreme conditions have affected crops, fueled forest fires and led to a sharp increase in water demand, with repercussions on the environment, including causing rivers and ponds to dry up.

Two degrees above average. The temperature records are linked in Switzerland, which has just gone through its second hottest month of August since the beginning of the records in 1864. The thermometer indicates an average of 16.2°C for the past month, or 1.9 °C above the 1991-2020 normal, MeteoSwiss announced on Tuesday August 30 in its monthly climatological report. Only the August of the 2003 heat wave was warmer, with an above normal temperature of 3.5°C.

Read on Switzerland had its second hottest month of August

Early harvests. This is a first for some winegrowers, announces the RTS. Due to the scorching summer, the harvest of the vines has already begun, three weeks ahead of schedule for several estates. The heat and the lack of rainfall accelerated the ripening of the grapes. The fruits are smaller than usual, but the long hot days have favored photosynthesis, making them sweeter. “This should induce a little more alcohol, and give wines with a lot of body, quite shimmering,” explains Vaud winemaker Laura Paccot.

Monday August 29

China is experiencing the worst heat wave in the world. China is facing what could be the world’s worst heatwave on record. That’s what the newspaper said. The new scientist extreme temperature historian Maximiliano Herrera. In the Middle Empire, the rivers are dry and the water reserves are at their lowest, due to the lack of rain and temperatures sometimes reaching 40°C. Some regions, which depend on the production of hydroelectricity, are thus facing a real energy crisis before their time. To remedy this, coal-fired power plants are running at 150% – and thus contribute to global warming, responsible for the drought.

When cities shape the extreme rains that flood them. After the heat waves, stormy episodes with torrential rains can occur. Cities, these asphalt ecosystems particularly vulnerable to flooding, form a unique micro-climate, in particular by generating heat islands. But that’s not all: urban centers could also cause extreme precipitation events. A complex phenomenon being studied by researchers from the Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics at the University of Lausanne. spoke with Nadav Peleg, professor and researcher in hydrometeorology at the Unil.

Read the interview: Cities shape the extreme rains that flood them

Thursday August 25

The heat wave silver medal. Switzerland has experienced its second hottest summer period this year since the start of measurements, reports MeteoSwiss, just behind the heat wave of 2003. Three heat waves have crossed the country since the beginning of summer, accompanied by a significant lack of precipitation. The average temperature since June has exceeded the norm by 2.3°C. In 2003, this excess had reached 3°C.

A rise in the price of water in Portugal.
To cope with the drought, the Portuguese government has recommended to 43 municipalities in the north and center of the country to increase the price of water for the biggest consumers, indicates the Reuters agency. Street cleaning and the watering of parks and public gardens are now prohibited. The reason: 10 dams in these regions, out of the sixty in the country, are in a critical situation. On Wednesday evening August 24, the Minister of the Environment Duarte Cordeira announced that these were filled to less than 20% of their total capacity.

Wednesday August 24

Remnants of the past emerge from the waters. While the rivers are also suffering from the record drought, old demons are resurfacing, along with surprising archaeological and paleontological finds.

  • In the bed of the Elbe, in Germany and the Czech Republic, “hunger stones”one even dating from the 15th century. In the 16th century, during a drought that resulted in a historic famine, someone carved the inscription: “If you see me, cry.»

  • Wrecks from the Second World War, such as in the Danube, still loaded with explosives, according to the BBC.

  • In Italy, a bomb was found at the bottom of the dry Po, leading to the evacuation of an entire village in order to carry out a controlled explosion. A Nazi barge also resurfaced there.

  • In Spain, the Guadalperal cromlech, nicknamed the “Spanish Stonehenge”, normally submerged under the waters of the Valdecañas dam lake, has resurfaced. The construction of the site is dated to 5000 years before our era.

  • Finally, in the United States, in the aptly named Dinosaur Valley State Park, traces of dinosaurs have been exhumed from the bed of a river by drought, reports AFP. It could be one of the longest stretches of dinosaur footprints in the world… which will be covered in water with the next rains.

The harvest was advanced due to the drought. The record drought experienced by Europe is affecting winegrowers. In Beaujolais, the harvest began on August 17. They had never been so early, says The world. And the harvest could fall by 30%… In Switzerland too, the harvest has been brought forward: three weeks ahead for the Vaudois Chasselas, the Geneva Grandstand. Simone de Montmollin, national PLR adviser and oenologist, quoted by the Geneva media, however assures that the vintage will be good:

“We are going to have real oenologist wines! The reds will be structured and powerful, while the whites will not be very acidic”

(Green) class struggles. At the end of a summer marked by water restrictions, and at the dawn of a winter where the specter of energy shortages looms, the question of sobriety is on everyone’s lips. And popular anger rumbles over unequal treatment. In the United States, several stars, considering themselves visibly outside the law, have received warnings from the authorities for not respecting restrictions on water consumption, notes The world. At the same time, more and more celebrities are being called to account for their private jet travel — and the associated carbon footprint. Meanwhile, in France, where the watering of golf courses in times of restrictions had hit the headlines, professionals in the sector are trying to defend their environmental record.

Tuesday August 23

Spain declares a state of natural disaster. Forest fires are ravaging Spain with 287,000 hectares gone up in smoke since the start of the year. So much so that the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, declared a state of natural disaster on Monday, August 22. This status – which applies to 500 hectares of land devastated by fires this summer – will allow the State to deploy a series of measures to come to the aid of the affected inhabitants. The Prime Minister said:

“Unfortunately, what science is telling us is that these next few summers are going to have even higher temperatures. So we are facing a climate emergency.”

Portugal – still in the grip of flames – could take a similar decision.

In California, a water police. In response to the drought, Californians are urged to reduce their water use by 20%.

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