Sunniest Spring On Record Raises U.K. Drought Risk
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. had its driest May in 124 years and sunniest spring on record, increasing the threat of a summer drought and compounding conditions that have been made worse by climate change.
The country had 9.6 millimeters of rain in May, which is just 16% of the average for the month and the least since 1896, according to early data by the U.K.’s Meteorological Office. It also recorded 573 hours of sunshine during Spring, which is due to end May 31. That makes it the sunniest spring since records began in 1929.
Across Europe it’s a similar picture with forecasters braced for sweltering temperatures and little rainfall this summer, following what was a mild winter, threatening droughts that would hinder crucial waterways and hamper crop growing in key regions.
The dry end to spring has seen some English farmers starting the irrigation season early. In the northwest of England, United Utilities Group Plc has applied to the government for a drought order to sustain supplies in west Cumbria.
Public spaces around the country have been crammed this month as people have used the good weather to spend more time outside and shake off the shackles of the coronavirus lockdown.
Weather Splits for European Wheat With Dry West and Eastern Rain
The Met Office said that the current dry spell can’t be attributed to climate change but to a high pressure set up that brings settled, dry conditions.
“Since global temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times then all events are now affected by global warming,” said Hayley Fowler, professor of climate change impacts at Newcastle University. “Our climate models suggest that mean summer temperatures will increase and summer rainfall will reduce in the U.K. with global heating.”
Despite the tinder-dry weather most U.K. water companies have enough water reserves for this time of the year, according to the Environment Agency. That’s because heavy rains during winter helped to build up groundwater reserves.
“While dry weather since late March has led to a decline in some reservoirs, this is not unusual during a hot and dry spell, and they can recover quickly when the rain returns,” Paige Chaplain, a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency, said in an email.
In the South of England, Affinity Water Ltd. has urged customers to conserve water, but isn’t expecting to introduce a hosepipe ban this year.
More usual levels of rain are expected to return in the summer months. While the summer won’t be a washout, any dry periods will only be one or two weeks long before they’re broken by unsettled weather and rain, Tyler Roys, a meteorologist at Accuweather Inc., said.
“The lack of rainfall has not helped with the growing phase of the crops, therefore the farmers will have to make a decision on what needs to get watered,” said Roys.
Europe has recorded higher-than-usual temperatures every month since March 2018, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The latest models for Europe’s summer this year show that hotter and drier weather is highly likely to stretch across key agricultural regions in the European Union.
During the northern hemisphere’s winter months, energy producers had to decrease fuel supplies as everyone from homeowners to heavy industry didn’t need as much heat as usual. Record temperatures in July 2019 forced power plants to shut and scorched crops.
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