Europe suffers as heat waves drive forest fires and dry rivers

Ed Hawkins, a professor of climate science at Reading University in southeast England, told NBC News: “In the U.K., we’ve had a nine month period of extremely light rainfall — that’s a very long time to go without rain, even in our unpredictable climate.

“We can now expect to see drier summers and lack of rainfall mirroring southern Europe in the U.K., although southern Europe is going to get hotter as well.”

Already some 10,000 people have been evacuated from areas near the forest fires still raging in the Gironde region in western France. More than 26 square miles of pine forest have burned since Tuesday, with at least 16 houses destroyed amid the worst French drought in recorded history.

“It’s an ogre, a monster,” Gregory Allione from the French firefighters body FNSPF said, according to Reuters.

Some problems, such as drought, have been building through months of low rainfall and hot weather — at the height of the summer, water levels of rivers such as the Rhine, Po and Danube are falling to critical levels.

On the Rhine, a major artery for trade and energy supplies, water levels are expected to reach the point this weekend where it’s potentially unsafe for boats to sail, threatening to choke off a key point in global shipping.

Authorities predict that levels at Kaub will soon dip below 40 centimeters (16 inches), seen as a benchmark, and keep falling over the weekend.

Many large ships could struggle to safely pass the river at that spot carrying anything like their usual load, leaving German power stations short of coal and other goods struggling for transport.

The Po, Italy’s longest river, has also dried up. Authorities declared a state of emergency last month for areas surrounding the Po, which accounts for roughly a third of the country’s agricultural production.

The source of the Thames, the river seen in so many postcard images of London, has also dried up, experts said.

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