Europe: Water surplus to persist in Ireland, Central Europe, & European Russia

19 January 2018

The 12-month forecast ending September 2018 indicates widespread water deficits of exceptional severity on the Iberian Peninsula and along France’s Mediterranean coast. Deficits of varying severity are forecast for most of France, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Sicily, much of the Balkan Peninsula, northern Norway, central Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia.

Severe to exceptional water surpluses are forecast for Ireland, northern United Kingdom, central Germany, Poland, Kaliningrad, and Lithuania. Both surplus and deficit conditions are forecast for European Russia, with exceptional surpluses in the west from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Surpluses of generally lesser severity are expected in close to France’s northern border, Netherlands, southern Norway, northern Sweden, eastern Belarus, and southern Serbia.

Spain’s water reserves were under 40 percent capacity at the turn of the New Year, down 23 percent from the start of last year. Drought severity has varied regionally but was particularly insidious in the southeast, where some reserve levels were at just 14 percent capacity. The southeastern Alicante province, which normally accounts for about 40 percent of Spain’s lemon crop, saw a 30 percent drop in lemon production due to drought. 

Winter Storm Eleanor battered western Europe in early January with over 100mph winds and heavy rain causing extensive power outages, flooding, structural damages, and at least three deaths. For the first time, all five major storm surge gates in the Netherlands were closed simultaneously in defense against the storm.

Finnish experts are concerned that warmer winters are undermining water quality restoration efforts as winter rains run off scarcely-vegetated fields, increasing nutrient loading in local lakes and the Gulf of Finland. An exceptionally rainy December in some areas and a wet year in southern Finland has increased river flows significantly higher than in a normal winter, in which most precipitation would fall as snow rather than rain. 

Rain and melting snow swelled several rivers in Germany and the Netherlands in early January. High water levels on the Rhine River, an important shipping route for minerals, heating oil, and grains, halted shipping operations for one day. Flooding and a landslide forced the evacuation of 150 residents of the town of St. Blasien, Germany.

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

Readily apparent in the map sequence above is the change in dominant color from primarily blue October through March to orange and red from April through September, indicating an overall transition from water surplus to deficit. This does not bode well for the Iberian Peninsula which stands out with persistent water deficits throughout the entire 12-month period.

From January through March, the extent of exceptional deficits in Spain and Portugal will diminish but widespread severe to extreme deficits will continue to emerge. A reprieve is forecast for France, where much of the country will return to normal conditions where exceptional deficits were observed in the prior three months. However, deficits will remain intense along much of France’s Mediterranean coast, Corsica, Sardinia, and parts of southern Italy, and will emerge in Sicily and Crimea. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Greece and for Italy north of Naples. Much farther north, deficits will nearly disappear in the Baltics but intense deficits will persist in central and northern Finland, northern Norway, and pockets of central Sweden.

Not to be ignored, a massive stretch of exceptional surplus remains in forecast for much of European Russia, with surpluses of generally lesser severity blanketing much of Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe from Ireland through Romania to the east and southern Scandinavia to the north. Surpluses are expected to be exceptional in northwestern Ireland; along parts of the Rhine River in Germany and Switzerland, and the Danube River in southern Germany; northern Poland; eastern Belarus; and northern Ukraine and much of the Dnieper River (Dnipro).

From April through June, much of Central and Eastern Europe will transition away from surplus to moderate deficit, joining southern Europe where deficits will be more intense, with severe conditions in Portugal, western Spain, southern Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania. The Baltics and southern Finland will transition from surplus to deficit as well, and deficits could be exceptional in eastern Latvia. Both surpluses and deficits are forecast for European Russia as deficits emerge. Surpluses of varying severity will continue to emerge in Scandinavia, northern UK, Switzerland, and pockets of central Poland.

In the remaining months of the forecast – July through September 2018 – a transition to deficit conditions is forecast for nearly all of Europe.

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

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. 


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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