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Concurrent extreme weather: Almost all continents hit by heatwave in July, drought in August, DTE finds

DTE analysed data to find that 125 countries suffered drought from August 10-22; it had reported that 33 countries globally suffered heatwaves in July

The last major drought in Europe was in 2018. This picture shows the Liberty Bridge over the Danube river in Novi Sad, Serbia on October 26, 2018. Photo: iStock The last major drought in Europe was in 2018. This picture shows the Liberty Bridge over the Danube river in Novi Sad, Serbia on October 26, 2018. Photo: iStock

Some 125 countries across six continents, except Antarctica, suffered drought from August 10-22, 2022, according to an analysis of data from a European Drought Observatory (EDO) report by Down To Earth.

The drought, which is ongoing, followed in the wake of a heatwave that was again global in its reach, as reported by Down To Earth. Some 33 countries on five continents had reported heatwaves in July 2022.

Droughts can be meteorological, hydrological, agricultural or even socio-economic. EDO uses ‘Risk of drought impact for agriculture’ as one of the indicators to ascertain the drought situation globally. 

DTE analysed the EDO data from August 10-22, 2022. Large swathes of land across Europe such as France in the west, Germany in the centre and east European countries are most at risk to drought risk, agriculturally, DTE found.

Agriculturally, droughts can severely impact crop production. ‘Exceptional water stress and heat stress’ have led to a loss in production of crops, according to the EDO’s August report. The report also forecasted a reduction in yield for maize, soyabean and sunflower due to the ongoing drought situation.

In Africa, South Sudan and Uganda have been the hardest-hit due to the ongoing drought situation on the continent. The EDO’s August report noted:

The extremely severe sequence of failed rainy seasons led to critical and long-term damages to agriculture, pasture and livestock over large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, northern Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan. The pressure on food security caused by the exceptionally prolonged drought is rapidly increasing. 

East African countries are even more vulnerable to drought shocks compared to the rest of the world. This is because coupled with droughts, communities across the region suffer from intense food insecurity due to other socio-political factors like conflicts like civil wars and the ongoing pandemic.

The EDO is yet to attribute a reason for the simultaneous drought situations across the world. But DTE had reported on a similar simultaneous weather event — extreme heatwaves — which unfolded in July when 33 countries across the world reported heatwaves.

The simultaneous heatwave — at least in the northern hemisphere — was because of planetary wave resonance, according to Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, Germany.

Planetary waves — also known as Rossby waves — can be found in the oceans as well as the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the US National Weather Service, “atmospheric Rossby waves form primarily as a result of the Earth’s geography. Rossby waves help transfer heat from the tropics toward the poles and cold air toward the tropics in an attempt to return the atmosphere to balance.

They also help locate the jet stream and mark out the track of surface low pressure systems. The slow motion of these waves often results in fairly long, persistent weather patterns.”

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