We have had summer showers for two weeks already, but the Dutch soil still has a considerable rainfall shortage. That precipitation deficit depends not only on the amount of rain, but also on the evaporation. And that is where the effects of climate change play a role.
For example, at the end of May, KNMI reported that higher summer temperatures in the Netherlands lead to additional evaporation, so that the effect of climate change on droughts can already be measured in the interior.
A new study by a research team from German, French, British and Austrian universities adds another evaporation factor to this: vegetation - looking not so much at summer temperatures, but at warming in spring.
Plants grow faster, but then die
In 2018, Europe had one of the driest summers ever recorded. The new research explains part of the cause of the remarkably hot spring that preceded that year. Those high temperatures initially led to faster plant growth.
The additional plant growth subsequently led to higher evaporation of soil moisture, which caused the soils to dry out faster. This mechanism could create a new link between climate change and summer droughts, as European springs are structurally warmer.
The researchers attempted to mimic the weather conditions of 2018 in different vegetation models, and discovered that the drought ultimately also strongly inhibited plant growth - which ultimately even resulted in plant death. This mainly occurred in Central Europe.
In Scandinavia it was also hot and dry, but some of the extra plant growth remained intact in the summer. The findings were published in Science Advances .
See also: Latest models: Climate change leads to an increase in droughts worldwide
See also: More drought in the Netherlands due to global warming, but no link with the North Pole