Europe: Water deficits to increase overall in the coming months

26 March 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast through November 2019 indicates deficits of varying intensity throughout much of Europe. Exceptional deficits are forecast for southern Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and pockets of Denmark, Slovenia, and Croatia.

Severe to extreme deficits are forecast for many regions.

Areas with a forecast of surplus include central Austria, Crimea, and Murmansk, Russia.

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

The forecast through May indicates an increase in the extent of deficits overall. Though intense surpluses are forecast for Austria and surpluses of varying severity in Switzerland, Norway, northwestern Sweden, and Murmansk, Russia, much of the rest of Europe can expect deficit conditions. Exceptional deficits will persist in Finland, southern Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, eastern Slovenia, and Croatia. Pockets of severe to extreme deficit are forecast for Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, eastern Germany, Poland, Belarus, eastern Slovakia, and scattered throughout the Balkans. Severe to extreme deficits are expected to blanket Hungary and will cover much of France, particularly northern Auvergne. Severe deficits will emerge throughout Portugal and in most of Spain west of Madrid.

From June through August surpluses will nearly disappear as deficits emerge throughout most of Europe. The extent of intense deficits will diminish but exceptional anomalies will persist in Finland. In nearby Baltic regions, deficits will downgrade in Estonia, Latvia, and southern Sweden but will be severe with some exceptional pockets; Norway will transition from surplus to intense deficit. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for the remainder of Europe. However, deficits will be more intense in Belarus, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, northern Germany, eastern Croatia, and Sicily.

The forecast for the remaining months – September through November – indicates mild to moderate deficit conditions throughout most of Europe, with the exception of Finland. Exceptional deficits will shrink in Finland but remain widespread. Surpluses will re-emerge in Murmansk, Russia.

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

IMPACTS
Finland reported its 2018 grain harvest as the country’s smallest in 26 years, primarily resulting from drought. Harvests were particularly poor in the southwest, where 20 percent of the country’s grain is typically produced. The 2018 harvest was 20 percent lower than the prior season in 2017 which suffered from excessive rain.

The Swedish government released a report last month highlighting the country’s inadequate preparation for widespread fires last summer, Sweden’s worst forest fires in over 50 years. The fires were sparked from barbecues and lightning strikes amid a record heatwave and drought conditions that ravaged Europe in the summer of 2018. The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute notes that temperatures in Sweden are rising faster than the global average due to its proximity to shrinking Arctic ice.

Drought is currently affecting about one third of the Czech Republic. Though the winter snow pack was above average, it was not enough to replenish groundwater levels according to a Czech hydrologist. The situation is especially dire in the nation’s breadbaskets in the Elbe region and southern and eastern Moravia.

More than half of Portugal is currently experiencing drought conditions, with extreme drought in the Western Algarve, the country’s southernmost region. The Confederation of Farmers of Portugal (Confederação dos Agricultores de Portugal) says that the water shortage and soil moisture deficit is impacting corn, wheat, and barley crops and is calling on the federal government to develop a long-term climate adaptation plan.

In February, Italian olive oil farmers protested over the crisis in olive oil production as a result of extreme weather, which scientists speculate could force Italy to import olive oil. Year-over-year production fell 57 percent in recent months due to a sharp cold snap followed by an intense heatwave last year, prompting farmers to call for increased government support of the industry.

A bridge partially collapsed in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital city of Sarajevo when the Zeljeznica river overflowed due to rapid snow melt and heavy rainfall early last month. Two towns in central Bosnia declared a state of emergency as neighborhoods flooded.

Flooding on the Greek island of Crete swept a car downstream, killing its four passengers. Several days of heavy rain washed away at least six bridges and acres of farmland.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
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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