Europe: Water deficits forecast for much of Europe

24 July 2019

The 12-month forecast through March 2020 indicates widespread water deficits of varying intensity throughout much of Europe.

Deficits will be exceptional in Finland, southern and far northern Sweden, the Baltics, Belarus, and western Spain. Severe to exceptional anomalies are expected in many pockets of Belgium, German, and Poland. Conditions in France will be moderate overall, with severe deficits in the center of the country. Deficits will also be severe in southern Portugal.

Surpluses are forecast for northern European Russia, north-central Sweden, northern Romania, southern Serbia, Umbria in central Italy, and a pocket in Murcia on Spain’s southeastern coast.

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

The forecast through September indicates widespread moderate to severe deficits throughout much of Europe with deficits of greater intensity in many regions. Deficits will reach exceptional intensity in Finland, the Baltics, and Belarus, though the extent of exceptional anomalies in this region will shrink. Extreme to exceptional deficits are expected in pockets of southern and northernmost Sweden, and in Germany, Belgium, Austria, and Extremadura in southwestern Spain. Severe deficits are forecast for a broad band across central France. Many rivers will be affected as well, with exceptional deficits on the Danube and Drava, and severe deficits on the Rhine, Allier, Dordogne, and Loire Rivers.

Surpluses are forecast for northern European Russia, southern Norrbotten County in northern Sweden, northern Wales, northern Scotland, western Romania into Hungary, central Serbia, southern Albania, southern Greece, and pockets of central and southern Italy. Anomalies could be intense north of Naples.

From October through December, water anomalies will diminish considerably overall leaving nearly normal conditions in the U.K., around the Mediterranean, and in much of eastern Europe. Pockets of generally moderate to severe deficit will linger in Finland, the Baltics, Belarus, Germany, and central France. Surpluses are forecast for northern European Russia and central Sweden and Norway.

The forecast for the remaining months – January through March 2020 – indicates nearly normal conditions in most of Europe with surpluses from Switzerland into Austria, European Russia, Sweden and Norway. Deficits are forecast for northern Finland.

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

A summer heatwave is drying out large swathes of Europe. Heatstroke killed two people in Spain late last month, as a wildfire spread across Palma d’Ebre after a pile of chicken manure spontaneously combusted amid scorching temperatures. 

Over 60 percent of the Czech Republic is experiencing extreme drought, prompting the government to amend the current Water Act to call for the creation of expert committees authorized to take protective measures in times of drought. 

The condition of French cereal crops declined sharply this month after record high temperatures reached 45.9 degrees C (114.6 degrees F). Extreme temperatures postponed exams for 800,000 French school children

Drought in France is at “crisis levels” in 20 departments of France, meaning that water use is restricted to priority uses only, which comprise drinking, sanitation and public health purposes. Less-severe water restrictions are in place for another 35 departments. A mere month prior to the new drought restrictions, hailstorms battered the department of Drôme, causing damages that resulted in €250 million (USD $280 million) in insurance claims.

Low flows on the Rhine and excessive temperatures are forcing French utilities to cut nuclear power output at at least two reactors. 

Companies that depend on shipping on the Rhine River have partnered with the German transport ministry to develop an action plan providing for better information on weather and water levels on the Rhine, along with other ideas, to prevent a shutdown on shipping when river levels drop during increasingly frequent droughts.

Wildfires emerging from the Europe-wide heatwave evacuated four villages in eastern Germany and exploded bullets and other munitions at an abandoned military range. 

Iceland’s longest drought on record, lasting 37 days, stretched from May 21 to June 26 this year. 

Lithuania declared a state of emergency early this month in response to a severe drought that threatens to halve this year’s crop harvests. Last month was the country’s hottest June on record. 

Severe storms dropped roughly a month’s worth of rain on parts of Hungary late last month, flooding residences and streets, and fully submerging cars at an underpass in Szolnok.

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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