Europe is poised to suffer more droughts as the 21st century progresses because of climate change, according to a study by the European Union’s Joint Research Centre and Germany’s University of Kassel.
Many river basins, particularly in southern Europe, will probably become more prone to periods of reduced water supply as average global temperatures rise, based on the study, published in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. Minimum river flows may fall as much as 40 percent in Spain and Portugal and the south of France and Italy, the study found.
Drought events in Europe in the past 30 years cost more than 100 billion euros ($136 billion), the Joint Research Centre wrote on its website. Concern is growing in the region about an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme drought as a result of climate change. Spain had its second-driest summer in 60 years in 2012, curbing wheat, olive and wine production.
“Due to global warming, many river basins are likely to be more prone to severe water stress,” the researchers wrote. “Mostly affected will be southern parts of Europe, where droughts are projected to become considerably more severe over the 21st century.”
Climate scenarios used in the study indicated the average global temperature will rise as much as 3.4 degrees Celsius (6.1 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 relative to the 1961-90 period.
The severity of drought events in southern Europe may increase as much as 80 percent, according to the study. Italian agriculture suffered damage totaling almost 3 billion euros in the summer of 2012, farming union Coldiretti said on Sept. 4 of that year, because of dryness followed by rain and hail.
Intensive water consumption will increase river-flow drought conditions by 10 percent to 30 percent in southern, western and central Europe and to a smaller extent in the U.K., based on the research.
“Southern regions of Europe, which already suffer most from limited water availability, will be affected hardest,” the researchers wrote. “Also, other regions in western, central and eastern Europe will likely face more stringent drought conditions.”
The Joint Research Centre is the scientific and technical service of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, according to its website.