Europe: Water deficits to downgrade slightly, but widespread deficits will persist

17 August 2018

The 12-month forecast indicates intense deficits blanketing much of Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe. Deficits are expected to be exceptional in many areas including Finland, southern Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Czechia.

Surpluses are forecast for northern Ukraine, central Moldova, southern Hungary, southeastern Austria, southwestern Serbia, Romania, and parts of European Russia. Conditions of both deficit and surplus are also expected in European Russia as transitions occur.

The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month time period show the evolving conditions.

The forecast through October indicates that the extent of exceptional deficits will diminish considerably. However, widespread deficits ranging from moderate to exceptional will continue to affect many parts of Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe. Deficits are expected to be especially intense in Finland, Estonia, and southern Germany. Moderate deficits are forecast to increase throughout much of France.

Exceptional surpluses will persist in southern Hungary while surpluses in the western part of the country retreat and surpluses emerge in the east. Surpluses in Serbia and Kosovo are expected to intensify, becoming extreme to exceptional in some pockets, and surpluses of similar intensity are forecast along the Danube as it runs through Romania and Bulgaria. Exceptional surpluses will persist in Moldova, and surpluses in northern and south-central Ukraine will begin to transition to conditions of both surplus and deficit. On the Iberian Peninsula, surpluses will diminish overall, but persist in many parts of Spain and may be exceptional in the south. Some moderate surpluses are forecast for central Italy and surpluses in the Piedmont region will moderate.

The forecast maps for the following six months – November through April – highlight a north/south flip of water anomalies, though of lesser intensity: water surpluses are expected in pockets across the north and mild deficits in the southern nations. From November through January most of Northern Europe will transition out of intense deficit, though exceptional deficits are forecast for northern Lapland in Finland. Moderate to severe surpluses are expected in southern and coastal Norway and moderate surpluses in southwest Finland, Estonia, Sweden’s North Baltic coast, Czechia, and northern, eastern, and south-central Ukraine. In European Russia, moderate to exceptional surpluses are expected to re-emerge between the Don and Volga Rivers, north of the Caucasus, and in the Upper Volga west of Rybinsk Reservoir. Elsewhere, some moderate deficits are forecast for northern Belarus, the Iberian Peninsula, pockets of central and southern France, northern Italy and Sardinia, and scattered pockets in the Balkans.

The forecast for the remaining months – February through April – indicates conditions similar to the forecast for the preceding three months with some uptick in the intensity of deficits.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Economic losses from this summer's drought and wildfires in Europe could total 3.5 billion euros (USD 4 billion), according to risk consultancy firm Aon Benfield's July impact analysis. Much of Europe is under significant drought conditions, which farmers are calling the worst in recent memory. Farmers are facing extreme losses and bankruptcy in Sweden, parts of which have received no rain since early May. Spring harvest of grains and vegetables in Denmark is down 40 to 50 percent, and wildfires in Sweden have burned tens of thousands of acres. According to the European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors, European vegetables are in the worst condition of the last 40 years. In the last three weeks of July, wheat shortages caused prices to soar more than 20 percent. The Latvian government referred to the drought as a natural disaster of national scale.

Lithuania declared a state of emergency due to drought early last month, and the European Commission adjusted the timeframe for direct payments to drought-hit farmers there, moving it earlier by two months from December to October. The Swedish government released an aid package of 1.2 billion kroner (USD 131 million), an “exceptional amount of support” for Swedish farmers, according to the country’s finance minister.

The drought has pushed excess cattle into the beef market, forcing processing plants in Ireland and other parts of Europe to freeze incoming meat, lowering its value but preserving it in the saturated market. 

Responding to high temperatures and drought conditions, several European nations have imposed water restrictions, including Ireland, France, and Norway. Dependent on hydropower, Norway's electricity prices hit record highs for this time of year.

Nuclear power plants in Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, and Switzerland were forced to cut production due to cooling problems resulting from warm water temperatures amid the heatwave. Warmed waters are also having ecological consequences. Thousands of pounds of dead fish - mostly graylings which can survive in temperatures up to 23 degrees C (73 degrees F) - were collected from the River Rhine on the German-Swiss border as temperatures hit 39.5 degrees C (103 degrees F). The fish died despite the presence of man-made cooling pools installed to prevent fish kills.

Heavy rains, meanwhile, flooded Kyiv last month, causing destruction and stranding cars and buses. Heavy rain in northeast Romania collapsed a bridge, plunging a woman to her death in a fast-flowing river. Another victim was killed while trying to rescue a cow stuck in a flooded river.

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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