Due to the drought this year there are no more grasses in the pastures for the cattle. Charente Saint Sulpice, France- - Jean Michel Nossant / SIPA

The record-breaking drought that hit Europe for two consecutive summers in 2018 and 2019 is likely to recur much more often by the end of the century, due to global warming, warns a study published Thursday in the journal "Scientific Reports"

However, according to the study, which uses data dating back to 1766, the droughts of 2018 and 2019 were already "unprecedented for 250 years, and their combined impact on plant growth is greater than the drought of 2003". In 2003, Europe had already been hit by an exceptional heatwave and drought, causing serious damage to agriculture.

The consecutive droughts of 1949-1950 are ranked second, but the affected territory had been much smaller.

Increasingly likely droughts

Due to the effects of climate change, if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such an event is seven times more likely to recur in the second half of the 21st century.

In this scenario, "projections also show that the affected agricultural areas across central Europe would almost double," to reach 40 million hectares of crops, one of the authors, Rohini told AFP. Kumar, from the Helmholtz Environmental Research Center in Germany.

In 2018-2019, the drought affected more than half of Central Europe, from France to Poland, via Italy and Germany.

Less risk in case of reduction of C02 emissions

But that repetition would be significantly reduced, up to more than twice, if the world managed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, according to the study.

The occurrence of major drought episodes two consecutive years is particularly problematic for plants that need time to recover from the heat and lack of water.

So "it is urgent to recognize the importance of these persistent events, and to develop a complete model to model the risks", insists the researcher.


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  • Drought