Global warming will exacerbate soil droughts in Europe – droughts will last longer, affect greater areas, and have an impact on more people. If the earth warms by three degrees Celsius, extreme events – such as the drought which struck large parts of Europe in 2003 – could become the normal state in the future. This scenario was described in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change by an international team of authors comprised of scientists coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). For the first time, the researchers explained how a global temperature rise of one to three degrees Celsius can have a significant impact on the distribution of soil droughts throughout Europe.

According to the modelling results of the author team – which involved scientists from the USA, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in addition to the UFZ – if global warming rises by three degrees, the drought regions in Europe will expand from 13 percent to 26 percent of the total area compared to the reference period of 1971 to 2000. If efforts are successful in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stipulated in the Paris Climate Protection Agreement, the drought regions in Europe can be limited to 19 percent of the total area. With the exception of Scandinavia, the duration of the largest droughts in Europe will also last three to four times longer than in the past. Up to 400 million people could then be affected.

Read more at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research