Europe: Widespread water deficits will persist

26 November 2018

The 12-month forecast through July 2019 indicates deficits of varying intensity throughout much of Europe. Deficits are expected to be exceptional in large pockets of Finland, the Baltics, Germany, Ukraine, and the Balkan Peninsula, as well as in many smaller pockets throughout the region.

Surpluses are forecast for Scotland, Norway, central Sweden, northern European Russia, and Sicily.

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

Though the extent of exceptional deficits will shrink overall in Europe, widespread deficits are forecast. Severe to extreme deficits are forecast for Germany, reaching into France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, and southern Sweden. Similar conditions are expected in Estonia, Latvia, and Ireland while deficits of generally lesser intensity are forecast for Finland, Lithuania, Poland, and Czechia. Intense deficits will emerge in the Balkans. Generally moderate deficits are forecast for the Iberian Peninsula and pockets of Italy.

Surpluses are forecast for Norway, northern European Russia, Scotland, Sicily, pockets along the Mediterranean coast of eastern Spain and southern France and peppered through the Alps. Surpluses are expected to reach exceptional intensity in northern European Russia. Conditions of both deficit and surplus (purple) are forecast from northern Ukraine into the Don River Basin in Russia.

From February through April, deficits will shrink considerably and downgrade, leaving moderate deficits in Eastern Europe and more intense deficits in the Balkans. Moderate deficits will increase on the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy and severe deficits will emerge in Sardinia. From France through Germany conditions are expected to transition out of deficit to near-normal, with pockets of surplus. Severe to extreme surpluses will emerge in Switzerland, and primarily moderate surpluses in Austria, Czechia, and central Slovakia. Surpluses will persist in southern Norway, downgrade in northern European Russia, and increase in Scotland.

The forecast for the remaining months – May through July – indicates primarily moderate to severe deficit conditions throughout most of Europe with some surpluses in Scotland and northern Finland.

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

Drought in Europe caused Germany’s Rhine River to hit record low levels last month, halting shipping operations and exposing a World War II bomb that needed to be defused. At the port of Duisburg, levels read just over five feet – the lowest ever measured there. Agriculture, too, is slumping; 14 of Germany’s 16 states have applied for funds from a federal aid program for farmers.

Balkan hydropower production fell to a 13-month low last month as the Danube River fell to near-record low water levels. Bulgaria took the biggest week-over-week hit, dropping 30 percent in output to an eight-month low.

Increased processing of drought- and rain-spoiled potatoes has driven the price of potatoes up 23 percent in France. This year’s drought conditions are threatening a lower potato crop harvest in all five top European Union potato producers; French yields are down 5 million metric tons (5.5 million tons) from last year’s.

Expectations for the French sugar beet yield dropped nearly seven percent between the start of harvesting in September and late last month due to drought effects.

Prolonged drought has led to a rise in hay imports in Switzerland this year, with purchases from January through September of this year already surpassing annual purchasing since 1995. Germany and France provide 80 percent of the country’s total hay imports.

Storms in Italy killed at least 11 people and swamped 70 percent of Venice with wind-driven lagoon water and heavy rain late last month. Venice’s yet-to-be-completed flood barrier system would have prevented the inundation, according to the city’s mayor, but the project has been delayed by cost overruns and corruption.

Flooding in southern France killed at least 10 people when three months’ worth of rain fell in six hours. Flood levels reportedly reached record highs in the Aude valley, knocking out a bridge, closing schools, and blocking access to a hospital.

At least 10 people were killed after torrential rain caused flash flooding in Mallorca, Spain. Debris blocked 11 roads and one bridge was swept away by the floods. Flooding in Malaga overturned a truck and killed a firefighter inside.

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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