24.08.2022, Frankreich, Lyon: Ein Sonnenblumenfeld in der Region Rhône-Alpes in der Nähe von Lyon im Südosten Frankreichs ist durch die Dürre ausgetrocknet. Die jüngste monatliche Analyse der Globalen Dürrebeobachtungsstelle der Europäischen Union (GDO) unterstreicht das Risiko einer anhaltenden Bodentrockenheit, die durch aufeinanderfolgende Hitzewellen und einen anhaltenden Mangel an Niederschlägen verursacht wird, und hält ihre Warnung aus dem letzten Bericht aufrecht, dass fast die Hälfte des EU-Gebiets von Dürre bedroht ist. Foto: Olivier Chassignole/AFP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Too hot, far too dry and a lot of sun: The meteorological balance for the summer of 2022 sounds like dream weather. However, the drought that has persisted since the spring and was felt throughout Central and Southern Europe has put agriculture, nature and the groundwater under severe pressure. Record lows in rivers, dried up fields, parched meadows and forest fires were the consequences. For climate researchers, it is clear that the exceptionally hot summer of 2022 is a foretaste of what is to come as a result of global warming.

“The summer balance of the German weather service shows again that the world and Germany are in the midst of climate change,” said Fred Hattermann, hydrologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). This year’s drought is the continuation of a trend that has been apparent for some time, and has intensified over the past five years. According to preliminary calculations by the German Weather Service (DWD), the summer of 2022 was the sunniest since records began. “In times of climate change, we should have experienced what will soon be a typical summer,” says DWD meteorologist Uwe Kirsche.

Soil moisture has been declining in many regions of Europe and Germany for decades – especially in summer. East Germany is particularly affected. It has already been observed here over long periods of time that the groundwater levels are falling. But parts of western Germany, such as northern Bavaria, are also affected.

“Satellite data clearly shows that there is less water stored in the soil and in the groundwater in large parts of Europe,” says Hattermann. The reasons for this are not only declining precipitation, but also the sharp increase in evaporation due to the higher temperatures. “If it rains then, the potential for more intense precipitation is there.”

This is a development that Hattermann expects will intensify in the future: “All our analyzes show that it will get even worse as global temperatures continue to rise.” Unfortunately, no relaxation is to be expected in the coming years either.

According to meteorologist Peter Hoffmann from PIK, the trend has been increasingly apparent in measurement data for decades and extends far beyond the summer months. River levels and water reservoirs would reach critical values ​​more quickly if dry years such as 2018, 2019 and 2022 followed each other at shorter intervals.

“The summer of 2022 is another warning sign that more extreme summers have already become the norm,” says Hoffmann. These extreme summers are characterized by more frequent heat waves above 35 degrees and persistent phases without widespread rain. Instead of long periods of land rain, which used to permanently soak the soil, there are currently more localized downpours. These could suddenly even exceed quantities that are otherwise usual in a whole month. The water would then run off rather than seep into the ground.

This year’s summer is one of the four warmest in more than 140 years – and the sixth driest summer in this period. The Germany-wide high was measured on July 20 in Hamburg at 40.1 degrees, a record value.

According to the provisional balance of the DWD, the average temperature was 19.2 degrees. That is 2.9 degrees more than in the period from 1961 to 1990. This puts 2022 on a par with the summer of 2019, the third warmest since records began. Only the summers of 2003 (19.7 degrees) and 2018 (19.3 degrees) were even warmer.

The nationwide average of almost 820 hours of sunshine was measured, significantly more than the previous record of 793.3 hours in the summer of 2003. “Accordingly, it is the sunniest summer since the duration of sunshine has been recorded,” says DWD meteorologist Andreas Friedrich.

Autumn, which begins for meteorologists on September 1st, could also remain too dry, at least in the east. “With the drought, the dryness and the low water levels, you can’t give the all-clear yet, it can still drag on into autumn,” says meteorologist Friedrich.