By Associated Press
Hoffmann said observations in recent years have all been at the upper end of what the existing climate models predicted.
The drought has caused some European countries to impose restrictions on water usage, and shipping is endangered on the Rhine and the Danube.
The Rhine could reach critical low levels in the coming days, making the transport of goods — including coal and gasoline — increasingly difficult. On the Danube, authorities in Serbia have started dredging sand to deepen the waterway and keep vessels moving smoothly.
In neighboring Hungary, wide parts of popular Lake Velence near Budapest, have turned into patches of dried mud, beaching small boats. Aeration and water circulation equipment have been installed to protect wildlife, but water quality has deteriorated to the point that a ban on swimming was imposed at one beach on weekends.
Stretches of the Po, Italy’s longest river, are so low that barges and boats that sank decades ago are resurfacing.
The drought also has affected southern England, which received only 10% of its average rainfall in July. Firefighters are battling an unprecedented number of grass fires and people in several areas have been banned from watering their lawns.
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 in countries like Spain and Portugal, which are used to long periods without rain, there have been 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, down 55% from a year ago.
Some European farmers are using water from the tap for their livestock in areas where ponds and streams have gone dry, using up to 100 litres (26 gallons) a day per cow.
In normally green Burgundy, home to 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 in the drought, with the quality and quantity of the milk decreasing.
The 31-year-old head of the local Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers) union said he has been forced to dip into his winter supply of 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 a report from S&P Global Commodity Insights.
Colson expects at least a 30% drop in corn yield, 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.”