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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Climate change will worsen droughts in Europe

Por Nina

The increase of dry regions in Europe could increase up to 26% if the average temperature rises 3 degrees Celsius over the next 80 years, warned a report released by the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) of Germany. The study is based on a context in which the objectives of the Paris Agreement 2015 (COP21) on climate change, which fixed a maximum increase in the temperature of the planet in 2100 of 1.5§C about the pre-industrial levels.

The models of the UFZ experts, who worked with colleagues from the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, compared the European extension of 'dry regions' with the 1971-2000 reference period, one of the hottest in the last 1,400 years. In this scenario, they predicted that a rise of 3°C until the end of this century would increase the total dry area in the continent from 13 to 26%, with respect to the aforementioned reference period. They also foresee that the longest droughts in Europe would last between three and four times longer, which would affect more than 400 million people.

On the contrary, they point out, the success of COP21 would place the aforementioned extension of 'dry regions' around 19% of the total area. The most extreme cases, if there is a failure, would be located in the Mediterranean area, where the extension of the 'dry regions' could go from 28% predicted for the reference period to 49%, which would also rise 'significantly' the number of months with droughts each year.

'With a three-degree warming, we assumed that there would be 5.6 months of drought per year. So far, that number is 2.1 months. In some parts of the Iberian Peninsula, droughts could last more than seven months, "said one of the two main authors of the study, Luis Samaniego, a hydrologist at the UFZ, in a statement.

In this situation, continues his colleague Stephan Thober, the water content of the soil would also be reduced by about 35 millimeters to a depth of two meters: 'In other words, 35,000 cubic meters of water would be unavailable for each square kilometer of Earth'. The last time that 'much of' Europe suffered such a drought was in 2003, although its frequency would multiply by two and would become the 'norm' in 'many areas' of the continent if the temperature rose three degrees by 2100, the authors warn.

However, an increase of 1.5 would only cause 3.2 months of annual drought in the Mediterranean region, while the reduction in water content in the soil would be around 8 millimeters. 'In the continental, alpine and Atlantic regions, the drought areas would increase by less than ten percent of the total', even if the temperature rises 3 ° C, while in the Baltic States and Scandinavia they could even be reduced by 3% , due to the increase in rainfall caused by global warming, according to Thober. "The effects of global warming can be reduced, partially, through some technical adjustments, although those are expensive," says Samaniego, who stresses that the most effective way to combat "the negative effects of droughts in Europe" is to comply with the Paris objectives.