Stuck at home, Europeans face a summer of sweltering temperatures and drought, scientists predict

May 16, 2020, 10:00 AM UTC

Europe is set for a sweltering and tinder dry summer this year, posing trouble for farmers, utilities and transportation on inland waterways.

That’s the conclusion of scientists at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, who published the seasonal outlook this week. Their models show that hotter and drier weather is highly likely to stretch across key agricultural regions in the European Union, potentially compounding drought conditions that have been made worse by climate change.

Abnormally high temperatures have led to billions of dollars in lost revenue over the past year. During the northern hemisphere’s winter months, energy producers had to curtail fuel supplies because everyone from homeowners to heavy industry didn’t need as much heat as usual. Record temperatures in July 2019 forced power plants to shut, delayed trains and scorched crops.

Copernicus scientists predict with greater than 50% probability that temperatures across Spain, France and parts of Italy will be well-above average in July.

Their model takes and combines data from scientists in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and the U.S. The EU program uses billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations around the world for its monthly and seasonal forecasts and concluded that 2019 was the continent’s hottest year on record.

Scientists predict with more than 40% probability that rainfall across swathes of central Europe, France and Spain will be well-below normal.

According to EU studies published last month, persistent drought that’s stressing production of crops like wheat and corn is threatening to disrupt food output. The models developed by Copernicus are intended to help businesses and governments plan for and potentially mitigate weather-related damages.

Europeans won’t be alone in feeling record summer temperatures. Copernicus projects with more than a 60% probability that large sections of the U.S. east and west coasts will record well-above-average temperatures in July.

The increasing volume of satellite data being crunched by Copernicus and other scientists is already feeding into European policy and business. Heineken NV used Copernicus data to improve beer brewing by lowering the amount of water needed in the process. Broker Marex Spectron Group Ltd. has used the information to forecast coffee, sugar and cocoa yields.