DEBUNKED: Europe’s claimed ‘worst drought in 500 years’ – Peer-reviewed studies, data & IPCC reveal ‘drought has not increased’ & ‘cannot be attributed to human-caused climate change’

From Climate Depot

Extreme Weather Expert Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.: For hydrological drought the IPCC is also quite strong in its conclusions: “Low confidence: Weak or insignificant trends”

In Western and Central Europe — basically Atlantic France all the way to Moscow, north of the Mediterranean region and south of the North Sea region — the IPCC and the underlying peer reviewed research on which it assesses has concluded that drought has not increased and, logically, that increased drought cannot be attributed to human-caused climate change.

By: Admin – Climate Depot

Dr. Pielke Jr.: Let’s take a look at what the peer-reviewed literature and the IPCC actually say about drought trends in this region and their possible attribution to climate change. One recent study — Vincente-Serrano et al. 2020 — looked at long-term trends in drought in Western Europe from 1851 to 2018, with a focus on precipitation deficits…The figure below shows trends aggregated for the region as a whole. They conclude: “Our study stresses that from the long-term (1851–2018) perspective there are no generally consistent trends in droughts across Western Europe.”

Another recent study — Oikonomou et al. 2020 — looked at more recent trends, from 1969 to 2018, and inclusive of all four of the IPCC European sub-regions. They found overall: “Seemingly, one of the central outcomes of this research is that there is little change in drought characteristics for 1969–2018. It also seems, no particular tendencies for more or less frequent droughts in the two major geographical domains of Europe are present. This reinforces the stochastic nature of the drought natural hazard.” … 

The IPCC AR6 — which summarizes a much broader literature than the two papers cited above — classifies drought into three categories: meteorological, hydrological and agricultural/ecological which emphasize respectively precipitation, streamflow and soil moisture. With respect to hydrological drought in Western and Central Europe the IPCC could not be stronger in its conclusion: “in areas of Western and Central Europe and Northern Europe, there is no evidence of changes in the severity of hydrological droughts since 1950”
 
For hydrological drought the IPCC is also quite strong in its conclusions: “Low confidence: Weak or insignificant trends”

In Western and Central Europe — basically Atlantic France all the way to Moscow, north of the Mediterranean region and south of the North Sea region — the IPCC and the underlying peer reviewed research on which it assesses has concluded that drought has not increased and, logically, that increased drought cannot be attributed to human-caused climate change.

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Roger Pielke Jr: What the media won’t tell you about drought in Europe
Roger Pielke Jr., 15 August 2022

[…] Europe is in the midst of what has been called the worst drought in 500 years. According to a drought expert with the European Commission in comments last week:

“We haven’t analysed fully the event (this year’s drought), because it is still ongoing, but based on my experience I think that this is perhaps even more extreme than 2018. Just to give you an idea the 2018 drought was so extreme that, looking back at least the last 500 years, there were no other events similar to the drought of 2018, but this year I think it is really worse than 2018.”

While a full analysis of the ongoing 2022 European drought remains to be completed, so too the drought itself, it is clearly exceptional if not unprecedented. In this post I take a close look at the state of understanding the possible role of climate change n this year’s drought.

Specifically, I report on what the most recent assessment report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and underlying literature and data say about the detection of trends in Western and Central European drought and the attribution of those trends to greenhouse gas emissions. The figure below shows the specific region that is the focus of this post, which includes all of Germany, most of France, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and western Russia among other nations.

In general, for the other three regions in the above map the IPCC expects with varying levels of confidence at at different levels of warming by 2100 drought to decrease in Northern Europe (NEU, which includes the UK), increase in the Mediterranean (MED) and to be highly uncertain in Eastern Europe (EEU). I will be happy to explore these other regions in depth in a future post. (See IPCC AR6 Chapter 11 if you’d like to explore for yourself.)

For Western and Central Europe, and especially for Germany and Northern France which are the subject of considerable news coverage right now, accurate representations of the current state of scientific understandings of drought are typically absent. Instead, we see many confident claims by journalists and some scientists of that this year’s drought is a signal of (or, if you prefer — fueled bylinked toevidence of) human-caused climate change.

Let’s take a look at what the peer-reviewed literature and the IPCC actually say about drought trends in this region and their possible attribution to climate change.

One recent study — Vincente-Serrano et al. 2020 — looked at long-term trends in drought in Western Europe from 1851 to 2018, with a focus on precipitation deficits. (Note that their geographical definition of Western Europe differs slightly from that of the IPCC). The figure below shows trends aggregated for the region as a whole. They conclude: “Our study stresses that from the long-term (1851–2018) perspective there are no generally consistent trends in droughts across Western Europe.”

Source: Vincente-Serrano et al. 2020

The paper goes through a number of different metrics of drought for various subregions across Europe. The authors are careful to note that there are other metrics of drought which may show different results:

“We emphasize that our findings should be seen in the context of the drought metric applied. Our assessment of drought characteristics is based on SPI, which is a precipitation-based metric. For a long-term assessment of drought in the region, it is not possible to use metrics that employ other important variables (e.g., streamflow, soil moisture, or AED).”

Another recent study — Oikonomou et al. 2020 — looked at more recent trends, from 1969 to 2018, and inclusive of all four of the IPCC European sub-regions. They found overall:

“Seemingly, one of the central outcomes of this research is that there is little change in drought characteristics for 1969–2018. It also seems, no particular tendencies for more or less frequent droughts in the two major geographical domains of Europe are present. This reinforces the stochastic nature of the drought natural hazard.”

Of course, as the studies above acknowledge, trend analyses can be sensitive to start and end dates. One reason for this sensitivity is the fact that climate varies a great deal even without the presence of human forcings — and this variability is of course one of the challenges facing the detection of long-term trends, especially for rare events.

For its part, the IPCC AR6 — which summarizes a much broader literature than the two papers cited above — classifies drought into three categories: meteorological, hydrological and agricultural/ecological which emphasize respectively precipitation, streamflow and soil moisture.

With respect to hydrological drought in Western and Central Europe the IPCC could not be stronger in its conclusion:

“in areas of Western and Central Europe and Northern Europe, there is no evidence of changes in the severity of hydrological droughts since 1950”

For hydrological drought the IPCC is also quite strong in its conclusions:

“Low confidence: Weak or insignificant trends”

The IPCC lumps WCE in with many other global regions in its conclusion that, “Past increases in agricultural and ecological droughts are found on all continents and several regions” which it expresses with medium confidence, a qualitative judgment which is typically interpreted as about a 50-50 chance of being true.

Looking to the future the IPCC is quite clear that we should not expect to be able to attribute trends in drought to climate change today. The IPCC projects only medium confidence for increases in hydrological agricultural/ecological drought at 2 and 4 degrees C increases in temperature and low confidence for increases in meteorological drought at 2C. In short, the IPCC does not expect that either detection or attribution should occur in 2022, when we are still well below 2C and suggests that it may be many decades before detection and attribution claims can be more strongly supported.

I have stitched together the summary table from IPCC AR6 Chapter 11 on the various metrics of drought and reproduced that below (alternatively, flip to pp. 1689-90 in Chapter 11 of IPCC AR6).

IPCC AR6 summary of it conclusions for various metrics of drought for Western and Central Europe. Source: Chapter 11, 1689-90

The bottom line:

In Western and Central Europe — basically Atlantic France all the way to Moscow, north of the Mediterranean region and south of the North Sea region — the IPCC and the underlying peer reviewed research on which it assesses has concluded that drought has not increased and, logically, that increased drought cannot be attributed to human-caused climate change. The only exception here is that the IPCC has medium confidence in an increasing trend of soil moisture deficits in some subregions, however the IPCC has low confidence that this trend can be attributed to human-caused climate change. Looking to future, at temperature changes of 2C and more, at present the IPCC does not expect the current state of scientific understandings to change. But stay tuned — that’s why we do science.

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HotScot
August 20, 2022 10:18 am

BS from the European Commission.

What a surprise……

Oldseadog
August 20, 2022 10:22 am

So, griff, what do you have to say about this, then?

HotScot
Reply to  Oldseadog
August 20, 2022 10:45 am

He’s too stupid to care.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Oldseadog
August 20, 2022 11:16 am

If he says anything, I suspect that it will be to deny the conclusions and insist that some weather event is all the evidence necessary to maintain his fictions.

H.R.
Reply to  Oldseadog
August 20, 2022 4:00 pm

I predict he’ll say it’s a 6% wetter drought.

Pflashgordon
Reply to  H.R.
August 20, 2022 6:55 pm

Griff will say, “What drought? Don’t they know that it’s raining everywhere, more, more ,more, all because of climate change!!!!!?”

John Hultquist
August 20, 2022 10:28 am

 Me: So, this is the worst drought in 500 years.

Them: Yes, it is.

Me: What caused the drought 500 years ago?

Them: . . . . . . . . . . . . Look, a squirrel.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  John Hultquist
August 20, 2022 11:56 am

Funny you said that, I was thinking that the press will cancel this debunk faster than a squirrel can bury an acorn!

This will get about as much press attention as Hunter’s laptop.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pop Piasa
Sturmudgeon
Reply to  Pop Piasa
August 22, 2022 1:27 pm

Laptop? What Laptop? What kind of squirrel would want, let alone bury, a Laptop?

Mike Maguire
August 20, 2022 10:47 am

https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-golden-rule-of-climate-extremes.html

The Golden Rule

Considering the substantial confusion in the media about this critical issue, let me provide the GOLDEN RULE OF CLIMATE EXTREMES.  Here it is:

The more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability.

Or to put it a different way, the larger or more unusual an extreme, the higher proportion of the extreme is due to natural variability.

n.n
Reply to  Mike Maguire
August 20, 2022 11:19 am

How apropos it is that Her choice is aided and abetted by our choice.

the Sweede
August 20, 2022 11:13 am

Is Europs Hot summers a part of the La Nina weather pattern ? the warm north atlantic surppressing the trail of LOW pressures towards Europe. the high pressure in the north Pacific casing the Jetstream to blow north of EUrope preventing Arctic air to come south ?

Mike Edwards
Reply to  the Sweede
August 20, 2022 1:51 pm

Possibly the drought is part of La Nina impacts. 1976 and 1921 were drought years in Europe and both coincided with La Nina years. Likely to be more to it than that since not all La Nina years cause droughts in Europe.

ironicman
Reply to  Mike Edwards
August 20, 2022 3:45 pm

la Nina is a major player and has a teleconnection to the NAO.

markl
August 20, 2022 11:31 am

This won’t stop the MSM from trumpeting misinformation to promote fear and it has nothing to do with selling newspapers and increasing TV viewership. At the turn of the century the UN started a full court press for an end to Capitalism and Democracy and we are witnessing the results in the form of a breakdown in society. AGW never was about climate.

Editor
August 20, 2022 11:31 am

It will be interesting to eventually factor in the undoubtedly serious drought of 2022. In the UK it is the worst probably since 1976 and prior to that 1935. On the continent it seems to have been more serious, possibly the worst since 1540. however today there are far more people, extracting far more water for crops industry and domestic use so a straight comparison is difficult.
tonyb

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  tonyb
August 20, 2022 11:55 am

Population of Europe in 1550 (excluding Russia and the Ottoman Empire) 70 million, industry Windmills, Waterwheels and charcoal. Water from wells and rivers in buckets
Population of the EU+UK 2022 700 million, Industry only just still in 21st century. Water from rivers (reservoirs) and boreholes.

The drought here in Derby is not as bad as 1976, by oure coincidence I was in Burton Upon Trent summer of 1976. I didn’t arrive in Derby permanently until the late 1980s

Redge
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
August 20, 2022 11:57 pm

It took 10 years to travel from Burton Upon Trent to Derby!

Were you an EV early adopter?

🤣 🤣 🤣

Solomon Green
Reply to  Redge
August 21, 2022 3:01 am

No just the old nationalised British Rail.

Mike Edwards
Reply to  tonyb
August 20, 2022 1:52 pm

1921 looks worse in Europe than 2022, at least so far.

HotScot
Reply to  tonyb
August 21, 2022 1:21 am

The UK loses several billion litres of water to leaky infrastructure every day.

New reservoirs have been proposed but rejected by NIMBY’s on ‘environmental’ grounds.

One water company, whose boss was paid £4m+ a year, was fined £19m by the regulator for sub standard infrastructure. They paid the fine rather than conducting the repairs because it was the cheaper option.

August 20, 2022 11:56 am

It is the worst drought
since the last worst drought.

Redge
Reply to  Richard Greene
August 20, 2022 11:59 pm

And by winter it will be worserer than we thought

Reply to  Redge
August 21, 2022 7:43 am

Worse than worse than we thought
Worse than we thought is so 2021.
Get with the latest scaremongering

Sturmudgeon
Reply to  Richard Greene
August 22, 2022 1:33 pm

Hey! Get with the Program… worserer is definitely worse than worse.

Dennis G. Sandberg
August 20, 2022 1:27 pm

2 days ago — Water levels on the Rhine are set to rise over the weekend, … August 18, 2022 at 1:14 AM PDT Updated on August 18, 2022 at 8:40 AM PDT 

The European Commission just got stabbed by the “Gore Effect” Heavy rains in Switzerland.

Reply to  Dennis G. Sandberg
August 20, 2022 3:16 pm

Not only there, also southern and northern to east Germany were flooded.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 20, 2022 3:58 pm

We’re they the worst floods ever?

John Hultquist
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
August 20, 2022 8:21 pm

Yes, since the last worst floods.

Sturmudgeon
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
August 22, 2022 1:35 pm

Let’s go with “worsterer”.

Robert B
August 20, 2022 2:09 pm

Western Europe is less than 4% of Earth’s land area. A local climatic extreme, which is a one in 500 year event, is expected somewhere on the globe every 20 years. That doesn’t mean exactly every 20 years. Western Europe had a decade of many years like this, 500 years ago, and we don’t know if it was unusual to have had a such a long period without such a drought, since. It could be a one in 100 year event for the millennium, they just happen in blocks.

My town had a very wet year and some galah blamed climate change. Yet it was only just in the top 10% of wettest years on record., the others being in a short 16 year period 100 years ago.

ironicman
Reply to  Robert B
August 20, 2022 6:03 pm

‘ … they just happen in blocks.’

 That is true and the blocks of cool wet summers produced famines.

Cold winters are of interest, particularly 1234,1334,1434, 1534 and 1634.

Peta of Newark
August 20, 2022 3:05 pm

Rather interestingly for The English Language – we’ve ran out of words..

It is the monumental wrongness of this entire thing.

  1. Wrong #1 A warming atmosphere actually means a cooling Earth – how could possibly not, heat energy does not flow up thermal gradients
  2. Wrong #2 Floods are not necessarily caused by extra/excessive rain. Floods are caused by the state of the ground/land that it falls upon
  3. Wrong #3 Similarly to floods, ‘droughts’ are not caused by lack of rain. Droughts are caused/seen/observed via the state of rivers, lakes. reservoirs and not least, the health of plants. Droughts are caused, again and like floods, by the state of the land/ground/soil.

With regard to #2 and #3, you know exactly what I’m (Peta of Newark is) talking about.
The words do exist yet no-one dare utter them.

It’s called Lying by Omission and folks have every reason to lie or pretend it’s not happening, because that particular monster is going to devour everything in its path. Everything.
As it has done for every and all previous attempts at (human) Settled Civilisation

Not dissimilar to a swarm of locust as it happens and, fuelled by the same hormone = Serotonin.
Yet if someone/anyone ‘feels out of sorts‘ and visits a Modern Doctor, that doctor will actually prescribe and give them, more Serotonin

how much more wrong could it all get

Sturmudgeon
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 22, 2022 1:39 pm

Rather interestingly for The English Language”: I was taught that “we’ve RUN out of words”.

David A
August 20, 2022 4:16 pm
Matt G
Reply to  David A
August 20, 2022 5:03 pm

World -0.1c = NH 0.6c + SH -0.8c?

Is the NH magically bigger than the SH for some reason?

World should be -0.2c.

tygrus
Reply to  Matt G
August 21, 2022 12:28 am

The global value is the average of NH & SH.
(A+B)/2.
(0.6 + -0.8)/2 = -0.2/2 = -0.1
They can use raw values to calculate average shown.

Last edited 1 month ago by tygrus
Matt G
Reply to  tygrus
August 21, 2022 3:28 am

Thanks for correcting me.

August 20, 2022 4:31 pm

A request from Dr. Pielke.

Matt G
August 20, 2022 6:27 pm

“Europe’s claimed ‘worst drought in 500 years’”

This is not true the alarmists lie as usual, for a start the Summer isn’t even over yet and some countries have had significant rain recently that didn’t occur in August 1976 just for example.

For the UK at least it is not even as dry as 1976 before recent significant rain and August hasn’t finshed yet.

“According to the results presented in this study, Northern and Eastern Europe show the highest drought frequency and severity from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. Considering entire Europe, the 1950s is the decade most hit by long, intense, and wide meteorological and hydrological droughts.”

This matches the data of this article replied too but not for North Western Europe at least until you dig deeper.

“Southern and Western Europe (in particular the Mediterranean area) show the highest drought frequency and severity from the early 1990s onwards.”

I checked this data in the linked paper below and this only applies to Southern Europe.

“In general, we found a small but continuous increase of the European areas prone to drought from the early 1980s to the early 2010s.”

In the data this provides, this statement is incorrect and only applies to Southern Europe.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214581815000026

Summary

While the planet has warmed slighly, Northern, Western and Eastern Europe have become more free of severe droughts since the 1950’s. Southern Europe has shown a slight increase in the severity of droughts since the 1980/90’s. Overall there has been no increase in droughts over Europe because the slight increase in other regions has been cancelled out by decreases in the majority of other regions.

There is natural pattern noticed back in records and that is a warming planet leads to less droughts in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, but a slight increase in severity in Southern Europe.

In a cooling planet Northern, Central and Eastern Europe have more droughts, but with a slight decrease in severity of Southern Europe.

August 20, 2022 9:57 pm

As a reminder, Dr Pielke Jr. has a short Youtube discussion of all the extreme weather conclusions listed in the SPM of the 2021 AR6 report; not just drought. It is well worth watching.
https://youtu.be/4wamPyDhwEY

Summary: only heat waves were high confidence of detection & attribution. Medium confidence for “soil moisture” [aka agricultural drought], heavy precipitation, and “fire weather”. Note that medium confidence meant only a 50:50 chance of being correct.
But not floods, 2 other types of drought, hurricanes, or tornadoes, among others.

Alba
August 21, 2022 4:30 am

In no other section of the Middle and Lower Rhine is the water level lower than at Kaub. Thanks to the rain, the level is slowly rising again.

The level at Kaub, which is important for shipping on the Rhine, continued to rise slightly until Sunday. According to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV), it increased to 60 centimeters by 5 a.m.
That was 18 centimeters more than on Saturday at the same time and 6 centimeters more than on Saturday evening at 9 p.m. 

https://24hoursworlds.com/economy/226157

Merrick
August 21, 2022 4:40 am

I’m a little confused about why it can’t be both. Why can’t there be *no* trend in precipitation but this is the worst drought in 500 years? Those happen now and then. Right?

I saw little in the article addressing this year’s actual numbers.

GaryD.
August 21, 2022 4:59 am

Coincidentally, there is flooding in the western US. Could there be a connection?

zemlik
August 21, 2022 5:41 am

In the UK the water infrastructure needs a trillion spending on it, Far Eastern investment funds are not going to do that.

Andy Espersen
August 21, 2022 8:53 am

But nobody in his right mind quotes IPCC’s scientific part these days. The Summary is what counts : the political arm of IPCC – who sit in smoke-filled back rooms and debate how to “interpret” the door-stop size science part.

Mark BLR
Reply to  Andy Espersen
August 22, 2022 4:38 am

But nobody in his right mind quotes IPCC’s scientific part these days.

Hey ! I resemble that remark !

See this comment I made on WUWT just 4 days ago (and its follow-ups).

More seriously, the WG-I, “The Scientific Basis”, contribution is basically OK (once you get past the SPM, at least).

It’s the WG-II (Adaptation) and WG-III (Mitigation) reports that tend to veer towards (more or less extreme) socialism / communism / what is sometimes called either “virtue signalling” or “wokism”.

– – – – –

A couple of “lo-lights” from the WG-II report I included in my follow-up to the above link.

FAQ1.5, “What is new in this 6th IPCC report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability?”, on page 1-76 :

The AR6 emphases the emergent issue on social justice and different forms of knowledge. … The historic focus on scientific literature has also been increasingly accompanied by attention to and incorporation of Indigenous knowledge, local knowledge, and associated scholars.

Where at least some (chapter ?) authors are “coming from” in their thinking is in the passage I quoted from the “Multiple knowledge systems and frameworks” section of “Cross-Chapter Box INDIG: The Role of Indigenous Knowledge and Local Knowledge in Understanding and Adapting to Climate Change”, on page 18-75 :

However, these efforts have been accompanied by a recognition that ‘integration’ of Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge cannot mean that those knowledge systems are subsumed or required to be validated through typical scientific means (Gratani et al., 2011; Matsui, 2015). Such a critique of ‘validity’ can be inappropriate, unnecessary, can disrespect Indigenous Peoples’ own identities and histories, limits the advancement and sharing of these perspectives in the formal literature, and overlooks the structural drivers of oppression and endangerment that are associated with Western civilization (Ford et al., 2016). Moreover, by underutilizing Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge systems, opportunities that could otherwise facilitate effective and feasible adaptation action can be overlooked. We should also reserve space for the understanding that each cultural knowledge system, building on linguistic-cultural endemicity, is unique and inherently valuable.

Dave Andrews
August 21, 2022 9:28 am

In their paper ‘The forgotten drought of 1765 -1768 Reconstructing and re-evaluating historical droughts in the British and Irish Isles’ Murphy, Wilby et al begin with a literature survey.

Cole and Marsh 2006 and Marsh 2007 identified major drought events in England and Wales in 1798-1808, 1854-60, 1887-8,1890-1909, 1921-23, 1933-34, 1959, 1976, 1990-92, 1995-97

Spraggs et al evaluated droughts in the east of the UK from 1798 -2010 and found the most severe were 1854-60 and 1893-1907 “characterised by contiguous dry winters and summers”

Other papers noted clusters of dry seasons or years during 1740-44, 1780-1, 1785-6, 1854-60, 1788-9.

Less well documented droughts occurred in 1722-26, 1730-34, 1783-91, 1801-08, 1833-36, 1870-82.

Seems to me the UK and Ireland are well used to droughts!

https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/joc.6521

Timbo
Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 25, 2022 2:19 am

Brilliant bit of research there….we’ll found.

Gunga Din
August 21, 2022 1:05 pm

Worst drought since cellphones?

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