Drought is impacting Europe on a larger scale than researchers expected, with data from satellites showing no significant rise in groundwater levels.
- Researchers analysed data from two satellites orbiting Earth
- A researcher said he “would never have imagined that water would be a problem”
- The findings come after Europe’s worst drought in 500 years
Researchers from Austria’s Graz University of Technology have analysed the data from two satellites orbiting Earth.
“A few years ago, I would never have imagined that water would be a problem here in Europe, especially in Germany or Austria,” researcher Torsten Mayer-Gürr said.
“We are actually getting problems with the water supply here. We have to think about this.”
The two satellites, named Tom and Jerry, orbit the Earth in a polar orbit at an altitude of just under 490 kilometres, with a distance of 200 kilometres between the two.
Researchers use satellite gravimetry to observe the world’s groundwater resources and document the changes in recent years, the university says.
It is part of a bigger project by the European Union to assess groundwater resources and develop sustainable water management plans.
Scientists collaborate across specific projects to determine the levels of groundwater.
Professor Mayer-Gürr said it was necessary to document the continuing drought and to have continuous satellite missions in space.
“The processing and the computational effort here are quite large,” he said.
“We have a distance measurement every five seconds and thus about half a million measurements per month.
“From this we then determine gravity field maps.”
The finding follows Europe recording its second-warmest year on record, according to th European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The service said temperatures in Europe had increased by more than twice the global average over the past three decades.
Last summer was Europe’s hottest on record, smashing temperature records in countries including Italy, Spain and Croatia.
The heat triggered a widespread drought that initial analysis ranked as Europe’s worst in 500 years.
The low water levels delayed shipping along Germany’s Rhine, while the lack of rain hit hydropower generation and slashed maize and soybean crop yields.