France: Fears for crop harvest as winter drought sees water restrictions
Global heating is making summers in France drier, meaning winter droughts are harder to cope with.
Tuesday 10 May 2022 14:25, UK
A drought at the beginning of the year has triggered water restrictions in 15 departments across France, sparking fears about the winter harvest.
The French agricultural department on Monday warned the unusually low winter rainfall will hit crop yields, just as the world grapples with supply chain disruption from the war in Ukraine.
The worst affected area covers a band stretching diagonally from the south east of the country towards Brittany in the north west.
January to March was among the 10 driest winter periods on record for some regions, leaving 15 of France's 96 domestic departments with restrictions. Authorities are urging people to save water, and some regions are banning car washing and garden watering.
The climate crisis is generally making winters wetter in France.
But the "natural fluctuation" of a dry winter is more "problematic" because the crisis is making summers drier, explained Robert Vautard, director of climate science group Institute Pierre Simon Laplace (ISPL) and IPCC author.
"The situation can be really dramatic if we have a drought in the winter and a climate change driven drought in the summer," he told Sky News.
Summer droughts are expected to hit "almost everywhere" in western Europe as the world gets hotter, he said.
He warned of the risk of "restrictions all along the summer in many districts" as well as dry soils hitting crop yields not only in winter.
Last summer the United Nations scientists warned that climate change would worsen extreme weather including stifling heat and ecological and agricultural drought in the Mediterranean, where summers are expected to warm by more than than the global average.
Britain experienced a reasonably dry March and April, but not enough to break records.
England's Environment Agency said although some rivers in the south west are currently low after a dry March and April, most water resources are within normal ranges. The risk of water restrictions this summer is low as long as the dry weather eases, it said.
"We know climate change is posing increasing risks around the quality and quantity of water available," and EA spokesperson told Sky News.
The National Framework for Water Resources contains plans to "transform the way we use and look after England's water supplies," they added.
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