by Wolfgang Flüs
What happens when our earth is permanently thirsty and the periods of drought become longer and longer? Due to global warming, droughts are increasing and unfortunately no improvement is in sight. Not only distant countries are affected by these heat waves, because Europe is not spared either.
Why is drought becoming more common?
The main trigger for droughts (the absence of precipitation over an unusually long period of time) is climate change, which is why we have been severely affected by global warming for several years. This means that our climate is warming up and average temperatures are rising in the long term around the world. This warming has the consequence that the atmosphere and oceans are warming, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.
In addition, the climate zones are being shifted. As a result of these enormous changes, extreme weather events such as drought, heat waves, forest fires, floods and storms are occurring. Humans, animals and nature all have to struggle with it.
What are the consequences of the drought?
Since no precipitation falls for a long period of time during periods of drought, the lack of water is a major challenge. As a result, the groundwater level is also falling and the entire population can quickly run into water shortages. Due to the severely sunk groundwater, the roots of the trees can no longer reach the groundwater, which can lead to major forest deaths.
Agriculture in particular is severely affected by periods of drought. The dry soil leads to crop failures or an increased incidence of plant diseases that damage the harvest. Thus our staple foods are also threatened, which in turn can lead to famine.
When our soils and trees dry out, the risk of forest fires also increases. If the precious trees are on fire, they can no longer purify our air and no longer supply us with oxygen. In addition, the habitat of many plants and animals is taken.
The prolonged heat waves are torture for many people as well and more deaths are reported during the heat waves.
All the news about the global drought
Our earth is increasingly glowing as the average temperature around the world rises. Drought occurs frequently and presents us with great challenges. Here you can find current and past reports on the global drought.
Summer 2021 - No drought summer in Germany, but the soil is still too dry
The soils in central Germany are still worryingly dry, despite the heavy rain in Germany over the past few months. Because it usually does not even reach the deep layers of the soil. Thus, the groundwater level has been falling continuously since 2013, warn researchers for environmental research.
Fortunately, 2021 will not turn out to be a drought summer,
like the summers of the past few years
If you consider the moisture of the entire soil down to a depth of 1,80 m, only in eastern Germany and in the extreme south of Bavaria there was an exceptional drought. Compared to previous years, however, this is a positive result. Even when looking at the topsoil (up to 25cm deep), 2021 is not yet an exceptional year of drought, according to Marx. In this area, the drought monitor only shows an exceptional drought in the extreme south of Bavaria. In parts of Saxony-Anhalt and in the east of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the topsoil is exceptionally dry, in the remaining regions of Germany there is no severe drought. Compared to the previous years 2017 to 2020, these are also better numbers.
(The UFZ drought monitor provides comprehensive information on the state of soil moisture in Germany.)
Will the ongoing precipitation trend counteract the overall drought of recent years?
According to environmental researchers, we would need several more months with above-average rainfall to adequately fill the entire ground down to a depth of two meters. Autumn, which brings cool air temperatures, is better suited for this. The soil is not so dried out and so the water could seep away better. And the precipitation should fall slowly. Heavy rain is usually simply washed away, does not penetrate deep into the ground and also evaporates relatively quickly in summer.
One thing is certain: both extreme situations - too much or too little water - will become more common in Germany in view of the climate crisis. To meet this challenge, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has one National water strategy have it worked out. Among other things, it provides: “To make bodies of water cleaner and healthier, to rebuild water management and to combat water scarcity. One of the ideas here are 'smart' water tariffs that make it cheaper to withdraw water at times of the day when there is little demand. Usage hierarchies should clarify who is allowed to use water primarily in the event of regional water scarcity. "
What are environmental researchers suggesting for the drought problem?
According to a study, afforestation could increase rainfall in large parts of Europe and curb drought - one of the consequences of climate change. This could prevent summer droughts in particular, researchers report. Forests can mitigate the effects of climate change by protecting soil from evaporation. According to model forecasts, afforestation could increase the amount of rain in summer by an average of 7,6%.
July 2021 in Germany
The soils in Central Germany are still worryingly dry, despite the heavy rain of the past few weeks in Central Germany as well. Because it usually doesn't even reach the ground. It takes several months with above-average rainfall to fill the entire ground down to a depth of two meters. This chance only arises in cool air temperatures, i.e. more from autumn. The soil is not so dried out and the water can drain away better. Problem with heavy rain: This is usually simply washed away and does not penetrate into the deep layers of the soil. This means that the water table continues to sink continuously.
Germany expects the next drought year in 2021
Germany can look back on three past drought years in a row, which left billions in damages in agriculture, industrial production and energy generation. Soils have dried up down to the deeper layers and have not been able to recover and fill up with enough water, despite the recent frequent rainfall. However, there is hope that the water balance could stabilize this year due to the relatively cool winter and spring, and that there will be no further drought year for the time being.
Collapse of the Dutch and Lower Saxony water supplies in summer 2020
Due to the intense heat, the water supplies in Lower Saxony suddenly run out. Drinking water is only available in the supermarket and the fire brigade distributes water for toilets. There are bans on filling the pools or sprinkling the lawn. This is not a fake film, but pure reality in summer 2020, which can hit us again and again. Even the Dutch water supply could no longer withstand the high consumption caused by the heat.
Next heat record - extreme drought in summer 2019
Drought in the summer of the century 2018
Northern and Central Europe in particular suffered heavily from the extreme drought in the summer of 2018. The effects of the drought were mainly forest fires and major crop failures with considerable economic consequences. This time the summer was preceded by a big heat wave in spring. German farmers had to be compensated with 340 million euros.