European drought dries up rivers, kills fish, shrivels crops

APTOPIX_Italy_Lake_Garda_Drought_85594 A view of the peninsula of Sirmione, on Garda lake, Italy, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Lake Garda water level has dropped critically following severe drought resulting in rocks to emerge around the Sirmione Peninsula.
Italy_Lake_Garda_Drought_20313 People relax on the peninsula of Sirmione, on Garda lake, Italy, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Lake Garda water level has dropped critically following severe drought resulting in rocks to emerge around the Sirmione Peninsula.
Europe_Drought_29304 FILE - A dead fish skeleton laying on the cracking earth of a dry lake bed near the village of Conoplja, 150 kilometers north-west of Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Water shortages reduced Serbia's hydropower production. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_04804 FILE - Boats lay on the dried lake bed in a port in Velence, Hungary, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_48238 A sign on a fence near the dried-up river Tille says 'Swimming is Forbidden' in Lux, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_81878 FILE - A view of a dry lake bed near the village of Conoplja, 150 kilometers north-west of Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Water shortages reduced Serbia's hydropower production.
Europe_Drought_68068 A tractor throws up a cloud of dust as it works in a sun-dried field in Til-Chatel, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_86301 FILE - Wilted sunflowers in a field near the village of Conoplja, 150 kilometers north-west of Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Drought in Serbia have led to forecasts for this year's harvests being reduced. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_00255 Farmer, Baptiste Colson, holds a clump of dried earth and grass as he stands in a sun-dried field in Moloy, France Wednesday Aug. 10, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_68013 Dead fish lay on the dried-up bed of the river Tille in Lux, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Britain_Heat_26712 The skyline of the financial district of Canary Wharf is stands in the background as the grass in the Wanstead Flats is dry, in London, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Heatwaves and prolonged dry weather are damaging landscapes, gardens and wildlife, the National Trust has warned. Britain is braced for another heatwave that will last longer than July's record-breaking hot spell, with highs of up to 35 degrees Celsius expected next week.
Europe_Drought_48333 FILE - A paddle boarder passes through a drying portion of the Verdon Gorge in southern France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. France was in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year Monday as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.
Europe_Drought_53892 FILE - A goose looks for water in the dried bed of Lake Velence in Velence, Hungary, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_91987 Dead fish lay on the dried-up bed of the river Tille in Lux, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_40038 The sun beats down on the dried-up bed of the river Tille in Lux, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_32236 A view the dried-up river Tille in Lux, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_30455 A tractor throws up a cloud of dust as it works in a sun-dried field in Til-Chatel, France, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_57671 Cows eat whatever green vegetation remains in a sun-dried field in Moloy, Burgundy region, France Wednesday Aug. 10, 2022. Burgundy, home to the source of the Seine River which runs through Paris, normally is a very green region. This year, grass turned yellow, depriving livestock from fresh food, and tractors send giant clouds of dust in the air as farmers work in their dry fields.
Europe_Drought_38919 FILE - The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_19561 FILE - The dried riverbed of the Po river in Sermide, Italy, Thursday, Aug.11, 2022. The river Po runs 652 kilometers (405 miles) from the northwestern city of Turin to Venice. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_19016 FILE - Horses graze next to a tree that fell years ago on the dried out meadow of a stud farm in Wehrheim near Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_77932 FILE - A motorcycle drives through the lavender fields of Valensole during a hot day in southern France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. France was in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year Monday as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.
Europe_Drought_94447 FILE - People take photos on the southern tip of Margaret Island, which can be seen due to low water level of the River Danube. in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of the European continent, damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po.
Europe_Drought_60409 FILE - A sunbather stands in front of the receding water line of the Verdon Gorge, southern France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. France was in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year Monday as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.
Europe_Drought_74467 FILE - People take a stroll on the river bed of the Waal as water levels dropped because of drought in Nijmegen, Netherlands, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. In parts of the country a ban on daytime irrigation of agricultural land has been issued because of extreme drought.
Europe_Drought_94869 FILE - Dry and sun burnt grass spreads in Greenwich Park with the backdrop of Queens House and the high risers of Canary Wharf in London, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Britain is braced for another heatwave that will last longer than July's record-breaking hot spell, with highs of up to 35 C expected next week.
Europe_Drought_90674 FILE - Boats lie on the dried riverbed at a tourist dock along the Po river in Sermide, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. The river Po runs 652 kilometers (405 miles) from the northwestern city of Turin to Venice.
Europe_Drought_68027 FILE - A boat laying on a dry bank of river Danube after a long time of drought near the village of Cortanovci, 50 kilometers north-west of Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.
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LUX, France (AP) — Once, a river ran through it. Now, white dust and thousands of dead fish cover the wide trench that winds amid rows of trees in France’s Burgundy region in what was the Tille River in the village of Lux.

From dry and cracked reservoirs in Spain to falling water levels on major arteries like the Danube, the Rhine and the Po, an unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of Europe. It is damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions, causing wildfires and threatening aquatic species.

There has been no significant rainfall for almost two months in the continent’s western, central and southern regions. In typically rainy Britain, the government officially declared a drought across southern and central England on Friday amid one of the hottest and driest summers on record.

And Europe’s dry period is expected to continue in what experts say could be the worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change is exacerbating conditions as hotter temperatures speed up evaporation, thirsty plants take in more moisture and reduced snowfall in the winter limits supplies of fresh water available for irrigation in the summer. Europe isn’t alone in the crisis, with drought conditions also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.

As he walked in the 15-meter (50-foot) wide riverbed in Lux, Jean-Philippe Couasné, chief technician at the local Federation for Fishing and Protection of the Aquatic Environment, listed the species of fish that had died in the Tille.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “On average, about 8,000 liters (2,100 gallons) per second are flowing. … And now, zero liters.”

In areas upstream, some trout and other freshwater species can take shelter in pools via fish ladders. But such systems aren’t available everywhere.

Without rain, the river “will continue to empty. And yes, all fish will die. … They are trapped upstream and downstream, there’s no water coming in, so the oxygen level will keep decreasing as the (water) volume goes down,” Couasné said. “These are species that will gradually disappear.”

Jean-Pierre Sonvico, the regional head of the federation, said diverting the fish to other rivers won’t help because those waterways also are affected.

“Yes, it’s dramatic because what can we do? Nothing,” he said. “We’re waiting, hoping for storms with rain, but storms are very local so we can’t count on it.”

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center warned this week that drought conditions will get worse and potentially affect 47% of the continent.

Andrea Toreti, a senior researcher at the European Drought Observatory, said a drought in 2018 was so extreme that there were no similar events for the last 500 years, “but this year, I think, it is really worse.”

For the next three months, “we see still a very high risk of dry conditions over Western and Central Europe, as well as the U.K.,” Toreti said.

Current conditions result from long periods of dry weather caused by changes in world weather systems, said meteorologist Peter Hoffmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin.

“It’s just that in summer we feel it the most,” he said. “But actually the drought builds up across the year.”

Climate change has lessened temperature differences between regions, sapping the forces that drive the jet stream, which normally brings wet Atlantic weather to Europe, he said.

A weaker or unstable jet stream can bring unusually hot air to Europe from North Africa, leading to prolonged periods of heat. The reverse is also true, when a polar vortex of cold air from the Arctic can cause freezing conditions far south of where it would normally reach.

Hoffmann said observations in recent years have all been at the upper end of what existing climate models predicted.

The drought has caused some European countries to restrict water usage, and shipping is endangered on the Rhine and the Danube rivers.

The Rhine, Germany’s biggest waterway, is forecast to reach critically low levels in the coming days. Authorities say it could become difficult for many large ships to safely navigate the river at the city of Kaub, roughly midway between Koblenz and Mainz.

On the Danube, authorities in Serbia have started dredging to keep vessels moving.

In neighboring Hungary, wide parts of Lake Velence near Budapest have turned into patches of dried mud, beaching small boats. Aeration and water circulation equipment was installed to protect wildlife, but water quality has deteriorated. A weekend swimming ban was imposed at one beach.

Stretches of the Po, Italy’s longest river, are so low that barges and boats that sank decades ago are resurfacing.

Italy’s Lake Garda has fallen to its lowest levels ever, and people who flocked to the popular spot east of Milan at the start of a long summer weekend found a newly exposed shoreline of bleached rocks with a yellow hue. Authorities recently released more water from the lake, Italy’s largest, to help with irrigation, but halted the effort to protect the lucrative tourist season.

The drought also has affected England, which last month had its driest July since 1935, according to the Met Office weather agency. The lack of rain has depleted reservoirs, rivers and groundwater and left grasslands brown and tinder-dry.

Millions in the U.K. already were barred from watering lawns and gardens, and 15 million more around London will face such a ban soon.

U.K. farmers face running out of irrigation water and having to use winter feed for animals because of a lack of grass. The Rivers Trust charity said England’s chalk streams — which allow underground springs to bubble up through the spongy layer of rock — are drying up, endangering aquatic wildlife like kingfishers and trout.

Even countries like Spain and Portugal, which are used to long periods without rain, have seen major consequences. In the Spanish region of Andalucia, some avocado farmers have had to sacrifice hundreds of trees to save others from wilting as the Vinuela reservoir in Malaga province dropped to only 13% of capacity.

Some European farmers are using water from the tap for their livestock when ponds and streams go dry, using up to 100 liters (26 gallons) a day per cow.

In normally green Burgundy, the source of Paris’ Seine River, the grass has turned yellow-brown and tractors churn up giant clouds of dust.

Baptiste Colson, who owns dairy cows and grows feed crops in the village of Moloy, said his animals are suffering, with the quality and quantity of their milk decreasing. The 31-year-old head of the local Young Farmers union said he has been forced to dip into his winter fodder in August.

“That is the biggest concern,” Colson said.

EU corn production is expected to be 12.5 million tons below last year and sunflower production is projected to be 1.6 million tons lower, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Colson expects at least a 30% drop in corn yields, a major problem for feeding his cows.

“We know we’ll have to buy food … so the cows can continue producing milk,” he said. “From an economic point of view, the cost will be high.”

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Dana Beltaji and Jill Lawless in London, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, Ciarán Giles in Madrid, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Bela Szandelszky in Budapest, Hungary, and Andrea Rosa and Luigi Navarra in Sirmione, Italy, contributed.

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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