Claim: New Drought Benchmark in Europe

The drought event from 2018 to 2020 was the most intense in over 250 years.

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Major drought events in Europe over the past 250 years

Withered meadows and fields, dry stream beds, dead forests, and reduced power plant outputs – the drought years of 2018, 2019 and 2020 were exceptional and had substantial impacts on nature and the economy. Previously it was not clear where they should be classified in their historical dimension. Now we know: “The 2018 to 2020 drought sets a new benchmark for droughts in Europe”, says Dr. Oldrich Rakovec, UFZ modeller and lead author of the article published in the Earth’s Future journal of the American Geophysical Union. The scientists documented this with a large compilation of data and modelling techniques which allowed them to reconstruct historical droughts back to 1766 and comparing their extents with the drought of 2018 to 2020.

The drought from 2018 to 2020 thus affected approximately one third of the land area of Europe, especially in central Europe, such as Germany, France and the Czech Republic. “No other drought event over the last 250 years had such a large spatial extent as this one”, explains Oldrich Rakovec. The total duration of the drought event in Europe was also unusually long, starting in April 2018 and not ending until December 2020: 33 months. Only the drought between 1857 and 1860 lasted slightly longer for a total of 35 months. What’s more: The drought from 2018 to 2020 also continued in 2021 and 2022 in deeper soils (i.e., up to 2m below the ground surface). “Although 2021 was wetter and supplied much needed water in the upper soil important for sustaining agriculture activities, the moisture did not penetrate to greater depths”, says the UFZ modeller. 

The average drought duration was also unusually long in the 50 x 50 km grid cells in which the scientists subdivided Europe for their modelling activity. Because a drought event develops dynamically in space and time (i.e., it starts at one point, then continues developing and finally ends somewhere else) its mean duration differs from its total one. In this case, the 2018-2020 event exhibited a mean drought duration of 12 months.

In the past, only the drought event from 1857 to 1860 lasted longer, with a mean duration of 13 months. The scientists define drought as the time in which the current soil-water content in top 2-m soil falls below the level that has been reached only 20 percent of the time during the 250 years. To reconstruct these historical droughts, the scientists used the mHM hydrologic model developed at the UFZ. Among other things, this environmental model can be used to estimate soil moisture content based on past temperature and precipitation records.

The rise in air temperature also reached a historical record during the 2018-2020 drought event, with an anomaly of 2.8 degrees Celsius above the long-term average over the past 250 years. “The droughts in the past were colder than recent droughts in which the average temperature hardly changed”, says Dr. Rohini Kumar, UFZ modeller and co-author of the article. The effects of a drought event become significantly more severe if, on addition to the precipitation deficit (approximately 20 percent for major drought events in past centuries), the warmer conditions prevail. This combined effect results in greater evaporation losses, leading to declining soil-water levels. The scientists also examined the consequences of the lack of water for agriculture during this drought event. They compared average annual crop yields for wheat, grain maize and barley, between 2018 and 2020 with those between 1961 and 2021. The results indicate that harvests were significantly reduced in countries affected primarily by the 2018-2020 drought. For example, grain maize production decreased between 20 and 40 percent in the Benelux countries, Germany and France; wheat reduced by up to 17.5 percent in Germany; and barley reduced by 10 percent in nearly all of Europe.

How droughts will develop in Europe in the future also depends on the severity of global warming. The scientists modelled the potential extent and duration of droughts for two representative concentration pathways (RCPs), which describe whether the future greenhouse gas emission scenarios will be more moderate (RCP4.5) or will continue unhindered (RCP8.5) up to the year 2100. The scientists determined that the mean drought duration increases significantly to up to 100 months for an RCP4.5 scenario, while the drought areal extent is projected to increase, covering up to 50 percent of Europe. The situation is different for the extreme RCP8.5 scenario: In this case, the mean drought duration could be more than 200 months, and the areal extent could affect up to 70 percent of Europe. “Decision-makers should be prepared for significantly more severe drought events in future. Especially for devising new agricultural policies, this should be considered as a wake-up call to assess suitable measures to mitigate the threatening lack of water”, says Dr. Luis Samaniego, co-author of the article and Head of the Stochastic and Land Surface Hydrology Working Group at the UFZ. On a regional basis, this could be the establishment of large water reservoirs, such as underground storage systems; intelligent and smart irrigation technologies or breeding of more heat-resistant cultivars.


AGU Advances




Computational simulation/modeling


Not applicable


The 2018–2020 Multi-Year Drought Sets a New Benchmark in Europe.



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Rod Evans
May 16, 2022 10:20 pm

Seriously? The RCP 4.5 best climate/weather outlook option we can hope for is repeated drought periods of 8 years 4 months, but if the RCP 8.5 is met the droughts will be 16 years 8 months long and more widespread.
I guess it proves you can project anything using modelling. It all depends what data you decide to incorporate.
Here in Blighty, we are fast approaching ‘flaming June’. We have taken a gamble the last frosts have happened for this spring but it is a gamble. We are still waiting for those lovely days of real warmth to come to visit us here in England.
I love the nature of English weather, it is so predictably unpredictable. You would be amazed what future outcomes are potentially in the pipeline, if I model the future weather using completely random ‘unpredictable’ data as input.

alastair gray
Reply to  Rod Evans
May 17, 2022 12:12 am

Planting out my runner beans today in the hope of no frost. We have been frost free the last couple of months- not unusual in a rather cold spring with few alarmistly warm days. Generally a drab . but greeen enough spring

Gerry, England
Reply to  alastair gray
May 17, 2022 6:00 am

Around this time in 2019 in my corner of Surrey we had a couple of nights of frost. Talking to a vineyard owner 2 weekends back he had his fingers crossed that we would get through OK this year. I think the apple trees can probably withstand it this year but the quince is just coming into blossom. Last year the apple trees were a month earlier and got virtually wiped out by the snow and frosts of April.

Jay Willis
Reply to  Gerry, England
May 17, 2022 6:54 am

My Apple tree has done really well this year. I think perhaps the rain helped earlier. But Yes there was one hard unexpected (well y’know) frost which killed off a few early squashes in the greenhouse. Anyhow, since the climate is changing next year, I’m thinking date palms probably, avocados, and pomegrantites. Looking forward to it.

Chris Morris
May 16, 2022 10:22 pm

Once you see that there is very little data, but a lot of modelling, including RCP8.5, it tells one not to bother reading further.

Jay Willis
Reply to  Chris Morris
May 17, 2022 6:58 am

We used modelling to show this has never happened before.

(Karl Popper would be proud that people aren’t just pressing a soft one on his scientific principles)

May 16, 2022 10:55 pm

Well Griff is wrong then because he says we are getting wetter with more floods and these guys are saying hotter with more droughts. Both can’t be right 🙂

Reply to  LdB
May 17, 2022 12:21 am

To be precise, griff says it’s 6% wetter!

Old Man Winter
Reply to  LdB
May 17, 2022 1:08 am

In a sane & logical world, you are correct. However. in Greenie Land, where everything can cause &
be caused by glow-bull warming, everything will always be just more proof of glow-bull warming. So
Griffo’s statements are always logical to Greens & we’re just evil climate deniers for disagreeing! 😮

Jay Willis
Reply to  LdB
May 17, 2022 7:01 am

Yes you can! Hotter wetter and colder drier, more wind, less wind bigger clouds, thinner weedier clouds, spiders in your tea, more of those thunder bugs in you hair, less of them, bigger bits of cod called medium, scampi made of polystyrene…you name it, my friend, and RCP 8.5 will bring in on sometime in the future.

May 16, 2022 11:41 pm

What this really says is WE DO NOT KNOW because they didn’t even go back to the last warm period – the medieval warm period which, by most accounts, was warmer than now.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  JimK
May 17, 2022 1:51 pm

By all realistic accounts, not most accounts.

Sea level alone shows it was much warmer.

And prosperous

May 16, 2022 11:57 pm

Very simple.
Let’s get the alarmists that claim more drought and the alarmists that claim more floods in the room at the same time and have some fun.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Waza
May 17, 2022 1:50 pm

Thats Griff, he can fulfill both requirements thereby increasing the entertainment factor.

Griff has unfortunately replaced God with humans, people like that always need to ascribe events to a higher power.

alastair gray
May 17, 2022 12:15 am

just a random snapshot see the drought stricken Wheat yields of France It is worse than we could have modelled 🙂

May 17, 2022 12:18 am

A dry summer would be wonderful…once in a blue moon event..but then i do live in Northern England and yes, I am waterproof….

Reply to  Anthony
May 17, 2022 4:20 am

People don’t realise us northerners don’t tan, we just rust

May 17, 2022 12:20 am

“modelling techniques”

…and mental gymnastics.

May 17, 2022 12:37 am

Of course it was…

Please also take note of multiple (record setting) heatwaves in Europe last year – and the contrasting severe flood event in Germany, plus continued climate impact from storms and floods in UK. All climate related.

I don’t know how Watts can keep denying the obvious…

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 1:29 am

But Griff you said it’s getting wetter (and more floods) so how do you have more droughts if it’s getting wetter … are these wet droughts?

Last edited 1 month ago by LdB
Reply to  LdB
May 17, 2022 1:47 am

Silly…these are dry droughts with more wet. Do you think Griff takes hits of heroine?

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 1:58 am

Griff, you said it’s 6% wetter

Have you changed your mind?

Old Man Winter
Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 2:37 am

“heatwaves…storms…floods… All climate related.” Oh, pshaw! Next thing you know you’ll discover
granite, sandstone & limestone are all geologically related! 😮

Frederik michiels
Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 2:55 am

Griff, this comes from an european living in this “so called” drought area:

1 1921 as the most severe drought year with 403,2 mm of rain instead of 806 mm NEVER has been beaten since. The early 20’s were exceptionally dry. The 1800,s were systematically drier then it is now.

2 the rain average is rising here: look at the graph from our RMI here: we have a rise of 20% since 1833. This is REAL data, from our met office.

3 the real reason is that in 1 century, our country went from wetlands to 25% concrete. Bad water managment is to blame, bad construction managment as well: all pre 1920 houses were on higher ground, with the baby boom of the 50’s and 60’s they overcapped the rivers, they built directly next to it for “idyllic river sights”

it are all those constructions that got washed away.

95% of our wetland buffers that are needed for groundwater infiltration and natural flood control are gone.

yes the floods of july 2021 were exceptional, it was correct when our weather reporter said: “i have never seen this in my career and life.”

however, the 1926 floods still holds the record. July 2021 even never got any close to the 1643 flood of the meuse at Venlo:comment image

venlo didn’t had a flood. It was just very close to, but 1643 was WAYS worse (see picture of the marking stones)

we have extreme flood records that go back to 1400, and the 2021 flood got nowhere near the real extreme flood events of the Dantean Anomaly period. This was just a “once in a lifetime event” a once in 100 year flood, and when we look at the history, 1926 is not far from a century ago, when our weather reporter wasn’t born.

Griff, perhaps you should better get informed from people that live there instead of telling nonsense?

Frederik michiels
Reply to  Frederik michiels
May 17, 2022 2:59 am

Oops that shoul read “never got any close to the 1926 flood”

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Frederik michiels
May 17, 2022 9:51 am

The Swiss Re Institute recently published its yearly report on Natural Catastrophies.

It says

The main driver of rising flood losses has been exposure accumulation due to economic growth and urbanisation. However many other factors such as aging or lack of flood control infrastructure, ‘soil sealing’ in urban areas, more rainfall from tropical cyclones and climate change effects also impact loss outcomes.”

Climate change is the least of their concerns.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave Andrews
Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Frederik michiels
May 17, 2022 1:44 pm


And those floods hundreds of years ago occurred in a country that was NOT 25% covered by concrete, which implies if those sorts of conditions occurred today the results would be far worse and would (will eventually) dwarf 2021 even further.

But of course, Griff only talks about things that have occurred since he started watching TV as nothing before that point actually happened.

Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
May 17, 2022 5:15 pm

which country is 25% (concrete) impervious?

Reply to  DonM
May 19, 2022 12:34 am

.Large cities are at least 50% impervious .Streets buildings and parking lots .

David Kamakaris
Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 4:24 am

Griff, how long is your record?

Reply to  David Kamakaris
May 17, 2022 4:48 am

78, 45, 33 1/3

It’s all the same to griff

Reply to  David Kamakaris
May 17, 2022 4:52 am

Griff’s record is stuck, it just goes on repeating the same old message ad infinitum.

Reply to  DaveS
May 17, 2022 7:45 am

Aw, dang, you beat me to it Dave.

Reply to  DaveS
May 17, 2022 9:21 pm

I distinctly remember griff saying to covid vaccine skeptics that:

“I was even vaccinated with an old phonograph needle. It didn’t affect me affect me affect me….”

Bryan A
Reply to  David Kamakaris
May 17, 2022 6:23 am

About 3″ (not that I’ve been peeking)

Reply to  David Kamakaris
May 17, 2022 7:44 am

The needle on griff’s record is stuck on just one groove which keeps repeating itself.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 4:50 am

Climate related my ass. Clearly you ignored the inconvenient flood records going back over 600 years that featured not only WORSE flooding events in the distant past, but MULTIPLE flooding events that were a VIRTUAL BLUEPRINT for the 2021 flood event.

In other words, WEATHER, NOT CLIMATE.

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 4:55 am

You were shown the historical evidence of severe flooding in Germany going back centuries. Yet you choose to ignore it.

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2022 5:23 am

“I don’t know how Watts can keep denying the obvious…”

At least as long as you can keep denying that CO2 always follows and never leads temperature, I bet.

Alexander Vissers
Reply to  griff
May 19, 2022 12:09 am

You cannot give up the 30 year average notion of climate and replace it by a three year drought and serious floods (my house was struck). And then, no one is denying that the average temperature on our planet has increased, that climate has changed, the critisism is about the confidence put in models, the pertinent projections and the authority claimed based on insufficient evidence and the continuous rhetoric.

Tom Halla
May 17, 2022 2:38 am

Including RCP8.5 demonstrates this is a crock.

Peta of Newark
May 17, 2022 3:50 am

You know me, I took myself off to Eastern Poland.
(I’m nearly really actually tempted, Polish people are nice, empathic, intelligent, hard working, honest have GSOH and are not short fat grumpy mendacious braindead alcohol-addicted projecting money grubbing little shits that the UK is now full of)

Anyway, I popped around a few weather-stations and over the timespan Nov 2018 thro May 2021, average annual rainfall was 615mm
With no completely dry months

and the period Jul 19 thro Jun 20 averaged over 700mm

Is that what we call a ‘drought’

Last edited 1 month ago by Peta of Newark
Geoff Sherrington
May 17, 2022 4:13 am

From my limited reading of Indian weather, it seems like both Australia and India have this peculiarity that the hottest heatwaves occur far from the Equator, somewhere like between latitudes 20 and 30 degrees N or S as the case may be.
As you near the Equator, the hottest heatwaves become less hot.
This is partly explained because the heatwave genesis is away from the big cities that measure them. They are blown over the cities from far away, where there is a very hot, inland desert, like around Alice Springs in the Australian case and Rajasthan for India. It gets very hot because of a comparative lack of water in the ground and the air above it, from distance from a moderating ocean that cannot exceed 30 C water temperature for long and from a flat, low altitude terrain, all of which combine to allow temperatures to reach 50 C or more in a stagnant wind pattern. There are few if any large cities in these genesis areas because of the lack of agriculture, water, heat and seaports, so alarmist weather watchers do not have scary reports of extremes where nobody much lives to complain about the heat.
One cannot forecast from the weather patterns of these large Indian cities, because some information that is relevant to a forecast has to be measured hundreds to a thousand km away, in the hot desert. Even then, there is a need to measure more than temperatures there, because the downwind effect on big cities depends in part on how fast the hot air mass moves from genesis location to large city location. This would seem to be an imponderable for a given hot season, so it seems fruitless to try to forecast which year will produce a hot heatwave or how hot it will be.
Please correct me if I am wrong, in which case I will happily apologise.
Geoff S

AGW is Not Science
May 17, 2022 4:45 am

Seems to me the “Old World” should have records of droughts that go back far longer than 250 years. Now why do you suppose they limited their analysis to such a short period?

I suspect use of all available data would render the recent drought ” not so special,” hence the “in 250 years” qualifier. Add the “modeling” bs, and you can make up whatever you like.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
May 17, 2022 5:20 am

The old world has records…

Hmm, so when do those records actually begin?

“The UK has had the wettest winter since national records began in 1910

And then suddenly it wasn’t 1910…

“The UK now has a dense grid of rainfall readings stretching back to 1836. Previously, it was only to 1862

Now that’s what I call cherrypicking.

Last edited 1 month ago by fretslider
Tom Abbott
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
May 17, 2022 1:17 pm

I was reading just yesterday about the years around 1600 in Europe and it was claimed they had the worst drought in seven hundred years at that time.

Mark BLR
May 17, 2022 6:41 am

The scientists modelled the potential extent and duration of droughts for two representative concentration pathways (RCPs), which describe whether the future greenhouse gas emission scenarios will be more moderate (RCP4.5) or will continue unhindered (RCP8.5) up to the year 2100.

Just after they submitted their paper for peer-review the IPCC released the “Accepted (subject to final edits)” version of the AR6 WG-I report.

Two weeks ago the IPCC released the “Final” version.

Section, “The likelihood of reference scenarios, scenario uncertainty and storylines”, page 239 :

Among the five core scenarios used most in this report, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5 are explicit ‘no-climate-policy’ scenarios (Gidden et al., 2019; Cross-Chapter Box 1.4, Table 1), assuming a carbon price of zero. These future ‘baseline’ scenarios are hence counterfactuals that include less climate policies compared to ‘business-as-usual’ scenarios – given that ‘business-as-usual’ scenarios could be understood to imply a continuation of existing climate policies.

NB : The “new” (CMIP6 for AR6, 2021) SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5 emissions pathways, both designated as “counterfactual” by the IPCC above, tend to neatly bracket the “old” (CMIP5 for AR5, 2013) RCP8.5 one, out to 2070 / 2100 at least.

Later in section :

Studies that consider possible future emission trends in the absence of additional climate policies, such as the recent IEA 2020 World Energy Outlook ‘stated policy’ scenario (International Energy Agency, 2020), project approximately constant fossil and industrial CO2 emissions out to 2070, approximately in line with the medium RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and SSP2-4.5 scenarios (Hausfather and Peters, 2020b) and the 2030 global emission levels that are pledged as part of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement (Section 1.2.2; (Fawcett et al., 2015; Rogelj et al., 2016; UNFCCC, 2016; IPCC, 2018).

So the new “worst-case scenario” is the one in which only the “pledged / already written into legislation” commitments are kept, and all “additional / optional” pledges are broken … which equals SSP2-4.5 / RCP4.5.

The following graph shows just how “counterfactual” the RCP8.5 emissions scenario (the solid red line) really is, out to 2070 at least.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mark BLR
May 17, 2022 8:00 am

“long-term average over the past 250 years”

I’m always struck by the lack of appreciation of scale in these reports. 250 years is only about 2% of the time HUMANS have been around (using the ~10,000 BC estimate)

Seems to be no appreciation of how old the Earth actually is.

Kristian Frediksson
May 17, 2022 8:04 am

It was very cold sea surface temperatures in the north atlantic sea in the summer 2018. I guess it was the same in 1842.

CP – The extreme drought of 1842 in Europe as described by both documentary data and instrumental measurements (

John Baglien
May 17, 2022 10:17 am

Competence of modeling aside, the authors own graphic betrays their conclusion of a new benchmark, with 1857-60 and 1920-22 being so similar in area, duration and intensity that they cluster right along with 2018-20 in the upper right hand corner of their upper left graphic. 2018-20 was certainly not unprecedented. They hype a conclusion not supported by their own drought models and then speculate as to how much worse their modeled temperature anomaly would make current droughts.

Dave Fair
Reply to  John Baglien
May 17, 2022 12:03 pm

From where have we seen summaries diverging from underlying data before? UN IPCC ARs? U.S. NCAs? Yep, I have factual grounds for trusting our governmental institutions. In fact, I look forward to the full operation of Brandon’s existing Disinformation Governance Board.

Gary Pearse
May 17, 2022 5:18 pm

” (European droughts) The decade of 1945–1955 can be classified as a period with the most extreme and long-lasting droughts during the last 250 years”

Even Australia:

“World War 2 Drought (1939-45)
Nearly 30 million sheep died with 4 million in South Australia in just 2 years! It was also in this time that the first federal disaster fund occurred.”

With a few years difference, you will find global matches to the US Dust Bowl drought. Global RawTemperature patterns also match showing that the homogenized temperature series are political creations and not attempts to arrive at an accurate scientific rendition of global temperature progression.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 17, 2022 6:35 pm

Here is a ‘read only’ pdf – the link won’t copy! It shows global similarities in major drought periods. It’s in:

Geophysical Research Letters VOL 25, NO. 17 pp 3367-3370 Sept 1, 1998
“Global Variations in Droughts and Wet Spells: 1900-1995”

by Dai, Trenberth and Karl

Publications that Climateers don’t want you to link to, in light of recent revisions for the Cause, they put in PDF form restricted from easy sharing. Also big data files that have been used by sceptics to kick climateers in the butt are now cumbersome, discontinued, truncated at 1950, etc. and require skills to copy into Excel and other formats.

If you want to know where the bodies are buried in wokey-doke science. These are what you must go for. For example, if you put ‘droughts in southern Africa’ in search, you get a flood of files all saying that there were none before 1950 and it was hell on earth after that!

It sucks, but the ‘gems’ make it worthwhile. We need a computer whizz to write an essay to tell us how to unlock this stuff easily. The Dark Side has silicon valley in its corner.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 17, 2022 7:02 pm

Please Mods, my comment is on subject and okay for polite company

Alexander Vissers
May 18, 2022 11:55 pm

Do not rule out CO2 concentration, it significantly contributes to drought resistance in vegetation.

Alexander Vissers
May 18, 2022 11:59 pm

The North Atalntic is 0,5 degrees Celcius below average. That could well be a cause for the drougt.

Ireneusz Palmowski
May 19, 2022 1:34 am

Spring drought in Europe means low nighttime temperatures. Soon La Niña will bring downpours to Europe. My advice is not to mow your lawns and reduce water levels in artificial reservoirs. comment image

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