European drought bites hard

AUSTRALIA is not the only continent suffering through drought at present.
European grain trade organisation Coceral last week put out its September estimates, forecasting a European Union (EU) wheat crop below 130 million tonnes of wheat, well below the averages of the past five years.
In particular, northern European states such as the UK, Germany, Denmark and Sweden will have markedly lower production this year compared with 2017.
Production is down in the US but there are good inventories.
Russia will be down 10m tonnes from last year (42m tonnes) and given the EU is also light on for wheat it will most likely be the US that fills the export void.
Tobin Gorey There has been significant media surrounding the hot English summer, which has been the warmest since record keeping began.
Only Spain experienced a significant year on year increase in production, due to issues with floods in 2017.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia commodity analyst Tobin Gorey said the drought meant Europe would not be a major player in wheat exports this year.
He said he expected US Department of Agriculture estimates predicting Russia would export 35 million tonnes of wheat this year would not come to pass.
“Russia will be down 10m tonnes from last year (42m tonnes) and given the EU is also light on for wheat it will most likely be the US that fills the export void.” The EU is importing far more wheat this season according to EU data, which showed imports landing in the Netherlands, Greece and Slovenia.

Mercury in the water: 40% of Europe’s lakes and rivers contaminated

An article by our partner, the Journal de l’Environnement.
Mercury contamination is reaching alarming levels, according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 19 September.
Although mercury is one of the ten most dangerous chemicals in the world, excessive concentrations are still observed in 46,000 out of 111,000 European surface water bodies.
These concentrations mainly come from emissions generated by the combustion of coal, lignite and wood and, to a lesser extent, gold mining and certain industrial processes.
That is why it can be found in the air, the water, the soil and in animals.
In the atmosphere, its current concentrations are 500% higher than natural levels and in oceans they are 200% higher.
When consumed by animals, it contaminates the entire food chain.
The report also revealed that approximately 50% of anthropogenic mercury observed in Europe comes from beyond its borders.
Limitations of the Minamata Convention The bad news is that even urgent major action would not be able to reduce the concentrations down to the levels observed before the industrial age.
This is a pollution that is expected to further increase as a result of global warming.

Drought developing across parts of Europe

This prolonged dry period has pluses and minuses.
What this tells us is that both these areas are running around to less than 50 percent of their normal rainfall for this period.
The question becomes, how long will this dry period last?
Areas that have seen normal to above-normal precipitation amounts from the past month (northern Spain into the Balkans) will continue to have scattered storms.
Western Germany will have much of their precipitation from the slow-moving closed upper-level low over the next 72 hours, then will dry out, the rest of the area will generally receive isolated storms, which will be mainly across Wales, and Ireland into Scotland.
This in turn will help with drought relief across much of Ukraine into the Baltic States and eastern Poland.
When you look across western Germany into the British Isles one might perk up and think…ooo some relief, but when you put it into context that many locations have for the month of July between 50 and 75 mm (2-3 inches of rain) and you started the first quarter of the month essentially dry, then add roughly 19 to 38 mm (0.75-1.50 inches) of rain by the time 75 percent of the month has gone, you are still left with around 50 percent for the month with about a week left.
The point I am trying to get across is that the area from western Germany into the British Isles is more likely to have their dry conditions continue through the next two weeks with isolated to scattered storms.
The less precipitation you have, the more likely the ground is going to be dry.
These small flames could lead to significant conditions if they fall on dry ground with fire fuel (dry scrub, leaves, etc.)

Europe’s bottled water industry aim for major plastic reduction

Their aim is to collect 90 percent of all PET bottles by 2025 as an EU average, ensuring discarded plastic containers can be converted into rPET.
The federation will also collaborate with the recycling industry to only use 25 percent rPET of new bottles by 2025, highlighting the industry’s commitment to closing the circular economy.
The EFBW, which represents Europe’s bottled water producers, pointed out that all packaging used by the industry is recyclable including its glass, PET and aluminium.
EFBW president Jean-Pierre Deffis said: “Building on our longstanding sustainable approach to resource management, we are committed to achieving these industry-wide actions.
PET drink bottles already achieve the highest recycling rate of any plastic packaging material in the EU.
But even one bottle ending up as litter is one too many.
“It will take a concerted, coordinated effort from many different value-chain actors to drive positive change.
Recyclers are eager to embark on this new journey.
Today PET recyclers do not have enough feedstock to supply the market.
EFBW members will also engage with consumers, who play a vital role in preventing littering, while supporting initiatives to encourage the proper disposal of PET packaging.

Future heat waves, droughts, and floods in major European cities

A team of Newcastle University researchers have released a study that assesses the future changes in flood, heatwaves, and drought impacts for 571 European cities, finding that heatwave days will increase across all cities.
Additionally, the high-end climate change scenario projects that most cities will see increases in both drought and river flood risks.
Needless to say, it’s important to know how droughts, heat waves, and floods in European cities will change.
This has been assessed for 571 European cities under a high-end scenario of climate change.
All cities more frequent and hotter heat waves In this study, heat waves are defined as three consecutive days where both maximum and minimum temperatures exceed the upper five per cent of these values for the historical period.
The cities in Southern Europe see the largest increase in the number of heat wave days, possibly up to 69 per cent.
Southern European cities will see an increase in drought conditions: Future droughts may get up to 14 times worse than the ones in the historical period.
Increases in river flooding are most prevalent in north-western Europe, and are particularly worrying for the British Isles and several other European cities, which could observe more than a 50 per cent increase of their 10-year-high river flow.
Adapting cities to heat waves is complicated We know a lot about the benefits of adapting to flood risk.
In Southern Europe, adapting to some of the projected changes could only be achieved by a fundamental, and expensive, re-engineering of each city or water resource system, as significant adaptation to climate extremes has already been implemented and radical changes will be needed to achieve more.

EU seeks to give millions better access to drinking water

BRUSSELS, Belguim – The European Union proposed Thursday giving millions of people in the 28-nation bloc better access to safe tap water and reduce water consumption via wasteful plastic bottles. The legislation proposed by the European Commission, the EU executive, aims to make safe drinking water a citizen right in line with social rights adopted at a summit in Gothenburg, Sweden in November. The commission was responding to a petition signed by 1.6 million people demanding better access to potable water, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said. “Today we are therefore proposing to modernise our…

Can Drought Be Prevented? Slovakia Aims to Try

Climate Change, Combating Desertification and Drought, Environment, Europe, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Headlines, Natural Resources, Water & Sanitation BRATISLAVA, Jan 22 2018 (IPS) – A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said.
The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to be approved by the Slovak government this Spring, includes a range of measures which, unlike many plans for drought, is proactive and focuses on prevention and mitigation instead of reacting to drought once it has occurred.
He told IPS: “A few of the measures in this plan have been adopted in other countries as part of climate change adaptation, but Slovakia is the first country in the region to have this kind of action plan to combat drought.
“It is a landmark plan…other countries could look at this and be inspired and say, yes, this is something we should copy.” The focus of the plan is on preventive measures in a number of areas, specifically agriculture and forestry, urban landscape, water management, research and environmental education.
It also covers water management, dealing with preparatory work for reconstruction of smaller reservoirs of water and green infrastructure, including wetlands restoration.
“Other countries have plans for drought, but in some, such as the USA, measures are related to dealing with drought after the event.
Last year, some parts of the country saw the driest first half of the year in over six decades while there was a very severe drought during 2015 when there were 23 days classified as super-tropical, i.e. with maximum temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius.
As the plan is focused on prevention, its effectiveness during times of drought may not be immediately noticed by many.
But while the adoption of the plan has been welcomed and it seems set to benefit Slovaks even in times when there is no drought, the need for it at all highlights growing concerns over the rapid changes in the country’s climate and what they could mean for its water supplies and use.
Slovakia isn’t spared from drought.” More frequent and intense droughts are almost certain in the future, climatologists predict, as the climate in Slovakia changes.

A drier south: Europe’s drought trends match climate change projections

News Release – LOGAN, UTAH – On the same day that global leaders wrapped up an international water and climate summit in Rome, researchers published new findings that suggest European drought trends are lining up with climate change projections.
Their study, published Oct. 25 in Scientific Reports, shows that two major drought indices are deviating from one another across Europe in a manner consistent with climate change simulations.
"This is one more big drop in the bucket toward climate change attribution," said lead author James Stagge, a post-doc at Utah State University’s Utah Water Research Lab.
"There have been a lot of projections, but now that we’re starting to see the projections and observations line up, it’s not a question of ‘is it happening?’
The spatial patterns observed by Stagge and his team match climate change projections for Europe that suggest decreases in drought frequency in the north and increases in drought frequency in the south.
"Once you add in the temperature increases for all of Europe, you have all the hallmarks of climate change," Stagge said.
Stagge explained that although one drought index captures this concept, the other does not.
"When you include evapotranspiration, the border from where it’s getting wetter to where it’s getting drier is pushing farther and farther north," he said.
This increasing deviation in European drought frequency is observed from the 1980s until today.
In a stationary climate, Stagge and co-authors say they would expect this difference to be randomly distributed and stable like it was from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Frost, drought hit wine production hard in Europe

BRUSSELS — Hail, frost and droughts have hit Europe’s grape harvest hard, making it the smallest in 36 years.
The European Union’s Copa-Cogeca farm union said Tuesday that the extreme weather means the harvest is expected to be down 14 percent, with some areas seeing a drop of as much as one third. That will cut wine production to a level not seen since 1981 at 145 million hectoliters.
The two biggest producers, "France and Italy were particularly badly affected," said Thierry Coste, the chairman of Copa-Cogeca wine division.
In France, production will be down 18 percent, and in Italy, the biggest wine producer in Europe, it will have sunk by 26 percent compared with last year.
"The quality of the grape is nevertheless expected to be very good across Europe, which should make for an excellent wine," he said.
During the 1980s, record wine production often hovered around the 210 million hectoliter mark. Extreme weather and climate change have further affected output in certain years.
Nowadays, wine production almost never surpasses 170 million hectares a year anymore, although this year’s estimate is particularly low, and was last worse only in 1981.
In the U.S., meanwhile, northern California’s wildfires have destroyed at least two wineries and damaged many others.

Common staples threatened by water scarcity

Common staples threatened by water scarcity.
A new report has revealed that supplies of animal feed, rice, cotton, grapes and pistachios could be impacted in the near future as they come from regions facing water shortages.
Over a third of Europe’s water needs come from other parts of the world, due to imported crops.
“Right now it is more like an alert,” said Professor Bart van den Hurk, who co-ordinates the Horizon 2020-funded IMPREX project, a Europe-wide research effort which produced the report as part of its efforts to analyse the links between climate change and water.
He added: “The next step is really to look at climate change sentinels (indicators) in the areas of exposure … and see whether you can actually translate climate change effects in those areas to European sensitivities.” According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and droughts will rise over the coming years as man-made climate change takes hold.
Dr Ertug Ercin, the lead author of the report entitled Vulnerabilities of Europe’s economy to global water scarcity and drought, from the Water Footprint Network, a Dutch non-governmental organisation which is part of the IMPREX project, explained that the project worked out Europe’s water vulnerability by looking at trade flows into and out of Europe, and then examining the water situation in countries from where the food originates.
“We always look at the supply side of the water issue,” he said, “but looking from the demand perspective and understanding the issues from the demand perspective is not well understood.” Analysing water demand is part of a broader effort by the IMPREX project to encourage public officials and businesses to take climate change forecasts into account when making decisions by predicting how global warming will lead to extreme weather in Europe.
Van den Hurk concluded: “I’m really on a mission to embed this physical climate science further down the chain.”