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article imageGermany may be looking at serious drought conditions this year

By Karen Graham     Apr 26, 2020 in Environment
Cologne - Germany’s spring showers haven’t materialized this year, and that’s drying out the country’s most important river, prompting concerns that key industrial goods might have trouble making it to their destination.
The Rhine River, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in a mostly northerly direction through Germany and the Netherlands, before emptying into the North Sea, is one of Europe's major rivers. It is the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe -after the Danube - at about 1,230 kilometers (760 miles).
A mix of glacial run-off and rain feeds the river, however, any contribution from glaciers is dwindling as summer melting is faster than ice formation in the winter months due to global warming.
Dating back to the years 83 to about 260 AD, the Rhine and the Danube formed most of the northern inland frontier of the Roman Empire, and, since those days, the Rhine has been a vital and navigable waterway carrying trade and goods deep inland.
The Rhine is not its usual mighty self because of drought
The Rhine is not its usual mighty self because of drought
Patrik STOLLARZ, AFP
The 2018 drought
In 2018, after months of scarce rainfall - along with hot, sunny weather - water levels on the Rhine were driven to historic lows, forcing barges to halt services or dramatically reduce their cargo to stay afloat. It was so bad that some stretches of the river receded to knee-high levels and fuel barges could not move.
In Cologne, the biggest city on the Rhine, the average water level is normally more than 9 feet but fell to below 28 inches in parts during the 2018 drought. On the upper Rhine beyond Kaub, a major shipping chokepoint between Koblenz and Mainz, the flow of fuels and goods to and from Germany’s advanced manufacturing heartlands in the south was brought to a near standstill.
The drought and the lowering of the water levels in the Rhine and other major rivers flowing through Germany were enough to put a dent in the country's economic growth and underline how even advanced economies are susceptible to climate change.
The so-called "Hunger Stone" embedded deep in the Elbe River has reappeared in the Czech R...
The so-called "Hunger Stone" embedded deep in the Elbe River has reappeared in the Czech Republic after Europe's long, dry summer.
Michal CIZEK, AFP
This year's drought problem
This year, Germany has received a mere 5.0 percent of its normal April rainfall, according to Germany’s federal weather service, putting April on course to be the driest month since records began in 1881, according to Bloomberg.
This year's dry spell has depressed water levels on the Rhine River, a conduit for barges delivering everything from steel to oil and coal to Germany's factories. The river is now at its lowest level for April since 2011.
“If we don’t get more normal rain in May, then we’re looking at another year of serious drought conditions,” said Andreas Friedrich of Germany’s DWD federal weather service, reports the Straits Times.
It is possible to suggest that the temperatures experienced across Europe this April have been enhanced due to global warming and because warmer air can hold more moisture, that the evaporation rates have been increased, according to Simon Lee, a climatologist at the University of Reading.
“We more commonly associate that effect with summertime heatwaves,” he said. “But the mechanism is the same, and as the growing season expands due to a warming climate, the impacts of these early-season warm spells may become more significant.”
More about Germany, Rhine River, Drought, barges, industrial goods
 
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