Satellites watch as Europe dries up in what could be the worst drought in 500 years.

The last time Europe suffered a drought as severe as the one it is experiencing in the summer of 2022, before the first colonists settled in America.

In recent months, Earth observation satellites have delivered a staggering flood of images to European climate change researchers. Water levels in some of the continent’s most powerful rivers, including the Rhine, Danube and Po, have fallen so low that waterways have been forced to close to traffic. Notorious rainy countries like the UK haven’t seen a drop of rain for months, turning the landscape into a wildfire-prone tinderbox.

According to the European Union’s environmental program Copernicus, the 2022 drought could be the worst drought the continent has experienced in 500 years. At the peak of the drought at the end of August, 47% of Europe suffered from “soil moisture deficiency” and 17% of the territory experienced “vegetation stress due to soil moisture deficiency”. The drought, according to Copernicus, has affected many industries, including agriculture, transport and energy production.

Related: Europe hits record high temperatures as satellites track heat wave from space

Some European countries, including Spain, the Netherlands, France and the UK, have introduced water rationing measures such as limiting daily water consumption and banning car washes.

Satellite data show that only the north of Scandinavia and the easternmost regions of Europe have escaped the drought. Copernicus tweeted his personal program. (will open in a new tab) that while “the data has yet to be analyzed and summer is not yet over, the drought currently affecting Europe could be the worst in 500 years.”

If the analysis is confirmed, the summer of 2022 will be the driest since the mega-drought of 1540, which appears to have been caused by an 11-month period of no rain and a period of temperatures between 9 and 13 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit). degrees Celsius) is warmer than the European average in the 20th century, according to Swiss historian Christian Pfister. (will open in a new tab).

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