Europe: Widespread water deficits ahead

28 May 2019

The 12-month forecast through January 2020 indicates deficits of varying intensity throughout much of Europe. Exceptional deficits are forecast for Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus north of Minsk, pockets of southern Sweden, and eastern Croatia.

Severe to extreme deficits are forecast for many regions including eastern and southern Germany, Hungary, and Spain west of Madrid.

Areas with a forecast of surplus include Murmansk in Russia, northwestern Sweden, central United Kingdom and western Ireland, Umbria in central Italy, and southeastern Spain.

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

The forecast through July indicates widespread deficits of varying intensity throughout much of Europe as European Russia transitions from surplus to deficit and surpluses in parts of Central and Eastern Europe diminish or transition. Deficits of exceptional intensity are expected to persist in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, and will emerge in Lithuania and Belarus north of Minsk. Deficits in southern Sweden will remain intense, though the extent of exceptional deficits will shrink somewhat. Much of Norway is expected to transition from surplus to intense deficit. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast for remaining areas of Europe and will be especially intense in southern Germany and along many rivers including the Danube, Drava, Allier, and Dordogne. Deficits will be primarily moderate in the United Kingdom and on the Iberian Peninsula. Moderate surpluses are forecast for Ireland, and intense surpluses for southeastern Spain.

From August through October deficits will moderate overall, though exceptional deficits will persist in Finland and severe to extreme deficits in the Baltics, Belarus, Switzerland, and along the Danube, Drava, Dnipro (Dnieper), Dniester, and Rhine Rivers. Moderate surpluses are forecast for northern European Russia and southeastern Spain.

The forecast for the remaining months – November 2019 through January 2020 – indicates primarily mild deficits in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Finland, though exceptional deficits are forecast for Lapland in northern Finland. Scattered, moderate surpluses are expected in Scandinavia, Central and Western Europe, and the Iberian Peninsula.

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

At least 10 wildfires broke out in Sweden within a week at the end of last month, prompting 50 people to evacuate their homes. After last year’s unprecedented fire season, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency bought a new fleet of water-bombing helicopters which were deployed against last month’s fires that burned over 800 hectares (1,976 acres) of land in the country’s first warm spell this season.

Germany’s weather service said that soil moisture deficits lingering since last year’s drought have left pine forests in eastern and northern regions of Germany at risk of wildfires. Fires broke out late last month in three states - Hesse, Brandenburg and Thuringia. Below-average rainfall earlier this year is also threatening German agriculture this season with a repeat of last year in which drought cut German crop production by 30 to 80 percent.

The German government estimates that 114,000 hectares (281,700 acres) of forest will need replanting following destruction by storms and drought.  Most of the drought damage was indirect, done by bark beetles that thrive, especially in pine forests, during periods of dry weather. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture estimated that the damage done between 2018 and 2019 will cost the forest industry 2.5 billion euros (USD $2.8 billion).

Heavy downpours in Wales last month dropped half a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours, prompting flood rescues of people from cars stranded in floodwaters.

The European Commission approved allocation of 8.2 million euros (USD $9.21 million) for the northeast region of Romania, ravaged by floods last summer.

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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