Researchers: Drought has disappeared nationwide – knowledge

After the very wet autumn and winter months, the long, extreme drought in Germany is over. “The drought has disappeared, it’s actually no longer a problem across Germany,” says the manager the drought monitor at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), Andreas Marx, in Leipzig. Since 2018, extremely dry soils have caused serious damage down to the deeper layers, especially in the forests, and there have also been increasing discussions about security of supply when it comes to water.

“A drought is an extreme event. Every extreme event ends at some point,” says Marx. However, people in Germany are more used to floods or storms that last a few hours to a few days. “There has not been a drought situation of this intensity over several years since 1867,” says the climate researcher. “We were simply ill-prepared for it.”

Currently there are only individual regions in eastern Saxony, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania where drier soils are recorded, says Marx. There are several reasons for this: Although the amount of precipitation nationwide in 2023 was around 40 percent above the long-term average, “the further east you go, the lower the excess.” In addition, the water penetrates more slowly in regions with a high proportion of clay or loam in the soil.

The climate researchers are also taking the current situation as an opportunity to check the drought monitor. It is a calculation model for soil moisture. After the drought was resolved, individual sources of error became apparent, says Marx. For example, a station in Hanover-Langenhagen systematically recorded the amount of precipitation as too low. The result was that a drought situation continued to be incorrectly reported there.

The widespread end to the drought is good news for forestry, forestry and water management, says Marx. 2024 should be relatively relaxed for these areas. There is currently so much water in the ground that it is very unlikely that a critical situation will develop this year. However, such a statement cannot be made for agriculture. “The problem is that even in April you can’t say what the summer will be like,” says Marx. For its summer crops, agriculture depends on the rainfall that falls from April to October. It is therefore “absurd” and more likely to fall under lobbying when associations warn in the spring of another summer of drought.

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