Czech territory facing worst drought in half millennium

Photo: dasroofless, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This part of the world is now facing its worst period of drought in 500 years, according to data from the scientific team InterSucho. Experts from the Czech Academy of Sciences and Mendel University in Brno say the current situation is caused not only by a lack of rainfall, but also by increasing evaporation rates, induced by higher temperatures. I discussed the drought with climatologist Miroslav Trnka, who says it is exceptional both in its length and intensity.

Miroslav Trnka, photo: Czech Television
“The important thing is that this is not a single-year drought. This is a drought that effectively started in 2015 and since then we have had six seasons, five of which were pretty dry.

“So it is pretty serious. However, it really depends what you are looking at. If you look at the nature, there is still green vegetation. At the same time, flows in the rivers are similar to those that we expect in June or July, and it’s only April, so that’s how bad it is.

“So we are early in the season and we already see signs of hydrological drought and we also see signs of agriculture drought.”

Which areas in the Czech Republic are most affected by the lack of rainfall?

“The biggest deficit at the moment is in the northern half of the country, but also in the south-west. However, we can see agriculture impacts basically all over Moravia, in the northern half of Bohemia and the north-west of Bohemia. One exception is the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands where we see a relatively small number of impacts. But this is likely to change in the coming weeks.”

So what is the outlook into the next few months?

“Our 10-day outlook seems to suggest an improvement, because we have a cold front coming today and also over the weekend, so we really hope this is going to ease the situation.

“However, when we look into the next months, the current deficit is so deep in the top layer of the soil, that we expect some sort of drought to last at least until June, probably mid-July.

Photo: dasroofless, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“We also did some seasonal forecasting. We fortunately don’t see a big amplification of drought at the moment. However, we also don’t see any signs that this would quickly improve. So there is going to be a dry year again.”

Can we blame the current drought on climate warming or are there other factors to blame, such as intensive farming or mismanagement of forests?

“That’s a very frequently asked question. Our data suggest that such droughts like we are experiencing have been expected by climate models. So this is pretty much the symptom of a global change.

“At the same time, farming and forestry, if they are not done properly, increases their vulnerability towards the drought. But I would certainly not agree that this drought was started by farming.

“One very strong argument is that if you look at our drought portal, you can see that the current drought in the soil affects South Moravia in the same way it does Austria, Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands.

“So even the countries with very advanced management of water in the landscape are suffering from drought. That said, it doesn’t mean we should continue with the present way of farming.”

Source: InterSucho