Last week, France, Britain and other European countries that experienced extreme drought ushered in heavy rain. However, the latest monthly report issued by the European Union warns that rainfall cannot make up for the water shortage caused by drought, and drought in some areas may last until the end of the year.
With the worst drought in Europe in 500 years, the “hunger stones” of many rivers in Central Europe have been exposed; New research shows that the glaciers in Switzerland have shrunk by more than half, and the melting speed of glaciers has accelerated.
The report of the European Union warns that drought will lead to the reduction of crops such as corn and soybeans, and will also hinder the transportation of coal and oil in many countries. Researchers have warned that coal-fired power plants in Germany may have a coal shortage this fall.
“Hunger Stone” and Historical Fragments Appear
Since the beginning of this year, the Po River, the longest river in Italy, and the Rhine River, the largest river in Western Europe, have suffered from historic droughts. With the continuous decline of water level, in recent weeks, “Hunger Stone” has been found in many rivers such as Elbe River, Rhine River and Danube River.
Hunger stone is a brand that was put in the riverbed when the predecessors encountered drought. Stone is usually engraved with the words year and warning. These marker stones are used to remind future generations that if the water level drops and the hunger stones are exposed, it means that there will be famine in the local area because of drought.
This summer, the Elbe River, the Rhine River, the Danube River and the Moser River all found hunger stones, and the Elbe River found the most hunger stones. The river is one of the main shipping routes in Central Europe, which flows through the Czech Republic and Germany and joins the North Sea near Hamburg, Germany.
The warning words “If you see me, please cry” are engraved on a hungry stone found in the Elbe River section of Qin Jie town in northern Czech Republic. The earliest year mark visible on the stone is 1616, and many years such as 1707 and 1746 are also marked. The last time this hungry stone surfaced was when Europe suffered from extreme drought in 2018.
In addition to warning the hunger stone, the drop in water level has also brought many historical sites back to the surface.
Stonehenge, composed of 150 stones, surfaced after the water level of a reservoir plummeted in caceres, central Spain. This Stonehenge can be traced back to around 5000 BC and was submerged in 1963. Since then, Stonehenge has only appeared four times.
In Italy, the drop in the water level of the Po River led to the reappearance of a 450-kilogram World War II bomb, and the handling of the bomb forced more than 3,000 local residents to evacuate. In Serbia, as the water level of the Danube drops, more than 20 Nazi German warships during World War II surfaced. In Spain, a village that has been flooded for 30 years has come to light again.
In Switzerland, due to the massive melting of glaciers, climbers found two unidentified human remains and the wreckage of a plane that crashed in 1968.
A study released by the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape on Monday warned that Swiss glaciers are accelerating to melt in recent years.
From 1931 to 2016, half of the 1,400 glaciers in Switzerland melted. In the short six years from 2016 to now, 12% of the remaining glaciers have melted, and the number of glaciers in Switzerland accounts for half of the glaciers in the European Alps.
The effects of drought persist.
The latest August report released by the Global Drought Watch of the European Union predicts that the weather in most parts of the European Union will return to normal levels from August to October after experiencing extreme drought and high temperature. But the subsequent rainfall can’t make up for the serious water shortage caused by the drought for half a year.
According to the EU’s drought index, in early August, 47% of Europe was in the “warning” level and 17% was in the “alert” level, up from 11% in July. Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and other countries have all increased the risk of drought.
In the past three months, the reduction of precipitation has had the most serious impact on Portugal, Spain, southern France, central Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany.
The report predicts that this year’s drought will have an impact on the output of major crops in the EU. Among them, compared with the past five years, corn production is expected to drop by 16% on average, soybeans by 15% and sunflowers by 12%.
In terms of energy, although the recent rainfall has alleviated the drought in the Po River in Italy, the local water resources are still in a state of emergency, and it is difficult to balance supply and demand; The storage capacity of power generation water in reservoirs in northern Italy continues to decline, less than half of that in previous years.
In the Netherlands, the low water level of the Rhine seriously affects commercial shipping, and the reduction of shipping is impacting coal and oil transportation; In Portugal, the water level of all reservoirs has dropped, and 25% reservoirs are in a state of serious water shortage, and the stored hydropower energy has been less than half of the average level in the past five years.
The report warns that although the temperature in most parts of the EU will be close to normal from August to October, it can no longer make up for the serious water shortage caused by the continuous drought. During this period, western Spain, eastern Portugal and the coast of Croatia will still suffer from drought. Until November, the Mediterranean region may be drier and warmer than in previous years.
Last week, the German Meteorological Bureau also reminded that although the country ushered in rainfall, the rainfall could not restore the water level of rivers such as the Rhine River to normal navigation level.
30% of Germany’s oil and coal transportation depends on inland navigation, and 80% of inland navigation needs to pass through the Rhine River. Due to the continuous decline of the water level in the Rhine River, cargo ships have reduced their cargo capacity to 30% to 40% to prevent grounding.
German authorities predict that the water level of the Rhine River in the Cobb section of Frankfurt will briefly rise to the peak level of 154 cm on Tuesday, local time, and then drop again. Cobb section is the hub channel of Rhine material transportation, and the drop of water level means that it is difficult for ships such as coal carriers to sail with full load. Previously, the water level in the Cobb section once fell below 40 cm.
Last week, the oil giant Shell announced that due to the low water level of the Rhine River and the difficulty in shipping, Shell Energy and the Rhineland Chemical Park had reduced production.
In addition to the oil giants’ production cuts, Guido Baldi, a researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research, also warned that if the Rhine still does not return to normal, there will be a coal shortage in Germany’s coal-fired power plants by September.
Due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and western sanctions, Russia has reduced its natural gas supply to the EU, and the EU is also accelerating the replenishment of natural gas stocks to spend this winter. In order to reduce the use of natural gas, Germany and other countries began to restart coal-fired power generation. Once coal-fired power generation is blocked, Germany’s energy crisis will intensify.
Baldi predicted that the shortage of coal and the current supply chain problems will reduce Germany’s GDP by 0.5% in the third quarter; If the coal transportation problem is not solved, Germany may encounter power shortage in September.