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Extreme Drought: What New Climate Zones Mean for Our Lives

Extreme Drought: What New Climate Zones Mean for Our Lives

Persistent droughts and droughts: Many cities plan to reduce water consumption to what is necessary. How could this work? We speak to geoecologist Fred Hattermann.

06/16/2023 | 04:59 min

In 2022, Germany’s Nature, Environment and Agriculture had to face a precipitation deficit of about one year. And 2023 is already dry in June.

Global warming is creating a pattern that results in prolonged droughts. A high-pressure weather pattern is building up over northern Europe, preventing the advance of moist air.

Although there is heavy rain in the winter, it is only the topsoil that has benefited from moisture. Deep soil layers were not supplied with sufficient water, which had devastating consequences for nature and agriculture.

Drought control: Agriculture must face severe drought

The Drought Monitor at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research shows that agriculture must struggle with persistent and severe droughts, particularly in eastern Germany.

Geoecologist Fred Hattermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research investigates the effects of climate change and the consequences of extreme droughts.

today: How far can we reasonably look into the future?

Fred Hatterman: You don’t always have to look at precipitation. It is very important that we are in the midst of climate change, as it warms by a couple of degrees and evaporation increases exponentially. This means that even if we had the same amount of precipitation as we did 50 years ago, there will still be less water in the end because evaporation has increased, winters are shorter, and plants grow longer. Winter is the period of the year when our reservoirs i.e. soil, ground water and also surface water are filled up again. Winters get shorter because vegetation grows longer.

today: What does this mean for the safety of our food?

Haterman: The fact is that we produce a lot of grain in Germany, a lot of which goes to fattening animals. We can change course here, because it’s generally a good idea to communicate well. If individual regions suffer from drought, there is a chance that produce will be obtained elsewhere. When it happens in many places in the world, when in many places in the world it has below-average returns, the markets react and then most of the time it doesn’t hit us head on.

Here it is simply more expensive, but in other regions it is unaffordable. And then it really hits those people.

Fred Hattermann, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

today: Another area seems to be Spain. Is there really a shift in climatic zones happening there?

Haterman: It becomes clear. It is clear that Spain is one of the countries, in general the Mediterranean region, which is particularly affected by climate change and these consequences can be seen very clearly.

Decision May 2023: The Spanish government is helping the country’s farmers, who are suffering from drought, with a package worth billions.Source: dpa

In addition to that, there is also the fact that resources are being overused in Spain. This was the case before climate change. There is a lot of illegal groundwater drilling and transfers from areas that have very little water themselves. And a lot of it is produced for us so that we can get cheap food.

today: When climate zones change, are there winners and losers? Or are we all losers in the end?

Dehydration is not just dehydration. The German Weather Service distinguishes four types of severe drought: meteorological, hydrological, agronomic and socio-economic.

03/27/2023 | 01:09 min

Haterman: Yes, there are areas where you can now grow or grow wine where you couldn’t before, where you can have two crops or grow winter crops where you only grow summer crops.

In general, this means that the way of life to which we have adapted is no longer valid.

Geologist Fred Hatterman

in many areas. This creates uncertainty and this uncertainty can lead to poor harvests and shortages in global markets. It’s hard to talk about the winners. Eventually, people also migrate to places where it becomes really difficult because, for example, the temperatures are too high to be outdoors, let alone work. We are particularly affected by this.

Conversation led 3 hrsMediator Gregor Steinbrenner.

Anthropocene – The Age of Man: Man is transmuting the seemingly inexhaustible element on which life on Earth depends – water. We pollute it, rebuild landscapes and interfere with important natural cycles.

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