China, Europe, US drought: Will 2022 be driest year?

London: Europe and parts of China have seen extreme temperatures this summer, with dry conditions in Africa putting millions at risk of starvation, while the American west continues to experience lack of rainfall.
Scientists say warmer and drier seasons are likely to become the norm, the BBC said raising the question if these past few months have been the driest on record?
One measure of drought conditions used by scientists is based on the level of moisture in the soil as measured by satellite imagery, the BBC report added.
It showed most of Europe experienced much drier weather this summer than the average for the period 2001 to 2016.
Elsewhere, the west of China has been very dry, with many areas experiencing extreme drought. Parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the US are also experiencing critically dry conditions.
In Europe, this summer’s drought may be the worst, said the BBC, adding, it could be the worst the continent experienced in 500 years, according to the EU’s environmental programme Copernicus.
At the peak of the dry spell in late August, almost half of Europe suffered from a “soil moisture deficit”.
Scientists say climate change means Europe will continue to experience more frequent and persistent droughts, and the dry conditions this year have affected agriculture, transport and energy generation.
The Rhine, a major river and cargo route, dropped to critically low levels this summer, causing shipping disruption, the BBC reported.
“We have now had consecutive droughts for the last five years, and this year is the worst Europe-wide drought in hundreds of years,” says Dr Fred Hattermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“It’s not just less rain, it’s also that it’s got much warmer, so the overall soil moisture has decreased.”
China too experienced an extended period of high temperatures this summer that lasted more than two months, the longest since records began in the 1960s, according to China’s Meteorological Administration.
Extreme heat and a severe lack of rainfall meant China’s biggest river, the Yangtze, shrank. During August, there was 60 per cent less rainfall in the river’s drainage area than normal, according to official Chinese data.
Despite large areas in southern China struggling with drought, heavy rains in northern areas led to flooding. The Liao River in northern China recorded its second highest water level since 1961.
And nationwide, rainfall has steadily increased since 2012, China’s annual climate change study says.
In Africa, drought conditions in eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and Somalia have led the UN to warn that some 22 million people could be at risk of starvation.
“We are now in the third year of very low rainfall coupled with high temperatures in that part of the continent,” according to Oxfam.
In Somalia, the rainfall in the March to May season was the lowest in the last six decades. And large parts of DR Congo and Uganda have also experienced very dry conditions compared with the average, the BBC reported.
A World Bank report in 2021 noted that overall “relative to 1970-79, the numbers of droughts and floods were nearly threefold and tenfold respectively, by 2010-19”.
Drought conditions in the western US have become the norm, with the region experiencing years of drier and hotter weather.
In a report published in February, scientists said the last two decades had seen the most extreme drought conditions in 1,200 years in the American west, the BBC said.
Like several past years, this summer too, hot and dry weather led to forest fires in several states and water storage levels dropping.
Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the US which straddles Arizona and Utah, is at its lowest level since it was filled in the 1960s, according to Nasa.
Climate models predict that the region will continue to have far less rainfall than average in the coming decades, the BBC report added.

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