“I am in need of water,” pleads farmer Lars Jonsson as he gazes upon a parched field in eastern Denmark, where the only relief comes from the shade provided by wind turbines.
Extreme weather conditions have marked the beginning of summer across the Northern Hemisphere, ranging from devastating fires in Canada to drought in Spain.
Even Northern Europe, known for its typically mild climate, has been experiencing an unusually dry spring and early summer, prompting experts to warn of a high risk of forest fires similar to the ones that devastated central Sweden in 2018.
“I am very concerned about the weather because it is extremely dry now,” says Jonsson.
“I check my phone multiple times a day, hoping for some rain in the next week,” he adds, holding his smartphone.
There has been little rainfall this spring, with no rain at all since May 23, resulting in Jonsson’s grain crops being 25 percent shorter than usual.
According to the European monitoring service Copernicus, 90 percent of Denmark was affected by drought at the end of May.
“Look, the roots are almost completely dried out,” says 62-year-old Jonsson as he uproots a plant.
Jonsson has been running a pork and grain farm north of Copenhagen since 1989, with part of his barley crop being sold to Danish brewer Carlsberg.
Due to the drought, his barley production this year will be 30 percent lower than last year, and his overall losses will depend on the grain prices in the autumn.
“I hope the price will increase a little so that my bottom line is okay. But if the price remains the same, my bottom line will suffer,” he explains.
Jonnson may have to let go of one of his two employees, as he had to do in 2018.
Until now, Jonsson says his region has largely been unaffected by climate change.
The most tangible impact of climate change has been the rise in temperatures.
“It is much warmer… I have to consider what crops to plant in the future,” says Jonsson, who is also involved in growing rye and wheat in a region where grain irrigation is prohibited.
He may need to start growing crops typically associated with more southern regions, such as sunflowers or soybeans.
“Maybe I can grow sunflowers or soybeans in Denmark, crops that are commonly found in France,” Jonsson contemplates.
“We don’t typically think of Denmark as a dry place,” says Jens Hesselbjerg, a climatologist at the University of Copenhagen.
“Drought has not been considered a likely outcome of climate change in Denmark. Instead, we have focused more on extreme precipitation.”
However, the reality is that periods without rain have become longer and more frequent in the Scandinavian country with a population of 5.9 million.
Authorities are now urging people to conserve water and have implemented a ban on open fires in the wild.
Concerns about drought are also growing in other Nordic countries.
According to Copernicus, 51 percent of Finland and 48 percent of Sweden are currently affected by drought. Sweden still remembers the devastating blazes that destroyed 25,000 hectares of woodland in 2018.
Swedish Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin stated that authorities are now better equipped to combat fires and assist farmers.
Climatologist Gustav Strandberg reveals that Sweden is experiencing the driest start to June in at least 20 years.
In Finland, temperatures in Helsinki have been hovering around 30°C this week, well above normal, with a considerable risk of forest fires in the southwestern areas.
“This is a pretty tough early summer drought,” says meteorologist Tuomo Bergman.
Norway is also experiencing an unusually dry period, despite an overall 20 percent increase in precipitation since 1900 due to climate change, according to the Norwegian Environment Agency.
“It does rain more, but it is concentrated in short periods, rather than being spread out over time as needed,” explains meteorologist Hakon Mjelstad.
“There will be a lot of rain in one week, followed by a month of no rainfall.”
Forest fire warnings have been raised to the highest level in large parts of southern and southeastern Norway, with all open fires, except for backyard barbecues, prohibited.
“Dry summers like the one we are expecting used to be rare,” warns Mjelstad.
“But they will become increasingly frequent simply because the Earth is warming up.”
© 2023 AFP
Forest fire risks mount in drought-hit Nordic nations (2023, June 16)
retrieved 17 June 2023
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