European drought shrivels crops, kills fish, and dries up waterways.
European drought shrivels crops, kills fish, and dries up waterways.

A river formerly flowed past it. What was once the Tille River in the village of Lux, France, is now covered in white dust and hundreds of dead fish. The trench is broad and flows through rows of trees.

An unprecedented drought is affecting nearly half of Europe, from dry and broken reservoirs in Spain to declining water levels on key rivers like the Danube, the Rhine, and the Po. It threatens aquatic species, impairs agricultural economy, imposes water restrictions, and starts wildfires.

Western, Central, and Southern Europe have seen over two months without any appreciable rainfall. It has been one of the warmest and driest summers on record in normally rainy Britain, and on Friday the government formally declared a drought in southern and central England.

And it’s anticipated that Europe will remain dry during what scientists believe may be the worst drought in 500 years.

Hotter temperatures accelerate evaporation, thirsty plants absorb more moisture, and less snowfall in the winter lower the amount of fresh water available for irrigation in the summer. These effects are all being exacerbated by climate change. Drought conditions have also been documented in East Africa, the western United States, and northern Mexico, thus Europe is not the only region experiencing this catastrophe.