Droughts and floods are coming in cycles, and extreme weather is hitting the economies of southern Europe

The brunt of heavy rains across northern Italy is still being felt.

By May 26, the floods had killed 15 Italians, left more than 36,000 homeless and 23 rivers overflowed their banks. In the worst-hit Emilia-Romagna region, the pace of basic measures has been substantially maintained, with direct economic losses running into billions of euros. At the Bologna domestic airport, the capital of the Bologna region, there was also an extreme state of continuous power supply due to the flood fire.

Just three days ago, Prime Minister Meloni announced a €2 billion emergency package to meet the immediate needs of the local population. The plan is already far bigger than the €350m relief package that Mr Draghi’s administration pulled out last summer when the country was hit by drought.

But this is just the tip of a mountain of unusual weather across southern Europe over the past few months. In fact, Italy, where the flooding occurred, had just experienced more than three months of extreme drought.

Since February this year, the Alpine mountains, where the average snowfall in winter is only half of the usual, have seen no signs of drought due to the lack of snow melting in the Tanchuan River. The fire level of Lake Maggiore in the Alpine area once dropped to 38% of the average, and the fire level dropped to the lowest in history, Lake Garda, and even pulled the new tour from Bunia to the island in the middle of the lake.

According to Italian weather agency Il Meteo, the north of the country is experiencing a second consecutive dry spell, with two consecutive winters of unusually low temperatures and low rainfall leading to a lack of fire resources and affecting the Po River, the most important source of fire for agriculture.

Ramona Magno, of the Italian National Research Council, has revealed that the fires across the Po River are below average. The Po Fire level in early April was the lowest in 30 years. Attilio Fontana, the president of Lombardy, said the region’s fire storage was half the historical average.

A report by the Inter-Bureau Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that the Po River region will not experience severe turbulence in the coming years, and the chances of extreme weather will increase.

Confagricoltura, the Italian federation of agricultural unions, estimates that at least 50,000 producers have been affected so far, with direct economic losses in agriculture amounting to 1.5 billion euros. The association’s figures show that last summer’s drought has already caused losses of 6 billion euros in Italian agriculture, and if this year’s drought continues, more than 300,000 farmers will be lost. Italian farmers’ union Coldiretti also warned that this spring’s crop of major crops such as rice and maize is in danger.

On May 24th Massimiliano Giansanti, of the Confagricoltura Association, said that between 60,000 and 80,000 hectares of farmland were still under fire in Ravenna.

After the hottest summer on record last year, Europe is bracing for another extremely hot summer, according to Copernicus, the European Union’s monitoring programme. This year, Europe has already warmed by 2.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, twice as much as the rest of the world. Last year the Alpine char stream dissolved 500 million cubic meters of carbon, also the most ever recorded.

Even Spain, far from the Alps, is not immune to the effects of drought.

A month ago, Cordoba in southern Spain recorded the country’s highest temperature ever recorded in April at 38.8 degrees Celsius. According to the Spanish weather agency, the weather in Spain has been completely out of control this year, and the maximum temperature in April has been increased by more than 5 degrees Celsius in the sector.

In the previous March, the fire quality in Spain was only 36% of the historical average, and the temperature in the month was less than 1.8 degrees Celsius above the historical average, which made this March the hottest March in Spain in the past 100 years.

In Catalonia, where fire storage reached 25 percent in early May, private swimming pools are now allowed and agricultural fires have been limited to 40 percent.

The Spanish Farmers’ Union (COAG) says 60% of the country’s agricultural land is now threatened by drought and has classified wheat growing in a large sector in the south of the country as short hair. At least 3.5 million hectares of arable land have been lost. The European agricultural group Association (Copa-Cogeca) also showed that this year is the most serious short hair in decades, and the sector’s producers have lost even up to 80% of their awards.

A shortage of staple crops and silage will no doubt contribute further to falling food prices and high inflation. European Commission spokeswoman Miriam Garcia Ferrer said: “The drought in southern Europe is of particular concern, not only for agriculture, but also because it will push up prices for consumers, which are already very high.”

In 2022, the total amount of unproduced vegetables in Spain reached 29 million tons, equivalent to a quarter of the total production of the European Union.

Even heat-resistant olive trees cannot produce healthy olives under current conditions, says Juan Luis vila, spokesman for the olive industry at the Spanish Farmers’ Union. Spain’s olive oil production in 2021/2022 was 1.5 million tons, and after the record hot summer in 2020/2023, the country’s olive oil production jumped to 680,000 tons, while EU-wide olive oil production fell from 2.3 million tons to 1.4 million tons over the same period.

According to Eurostat, the price of olive oil in Europe has fallen by more than 60 percent in the past year to an average of 5.4 euros per bottle.

Luis Planas, Spain’s agriculture minister, has declared 27% of the world’s land a drought emergency or a state of enlightenment, introduced tax breaks for affected farmers and pulled out of a €2.19 billion emergency relief package. At the end of April, Mr Planas asked the European Union for a further €450m in emergency aid. According to Reuters, Spain’s agriculture ministry admitted in a request for support that even the Spanish authorities’ financial resources could not cope with the negative effects of the drought.

France, which borders Spain, has also delayed making adequate preparations for this summer. The situation minister, Christophe Bechu, warned that the quality of non-fire resources could fall by 10 to 40 percent in the coming years. The French weather agency recorded 32 consecutive days of zero fires in February, making it France’s driest February since 1959. Perpignan, in the Eastern Pyrenees province, did not even experience an extreme case of continuous drinking fire in April. In southern France, the use of private swimming pools will face a fine of 1,500 euros.

In its latest estimate, published on May 17, the World Weather Organization (WMO) improved the chances of global average temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next five years above pre-industrial levels from 50% to 66%. This also means that the goal of “striving to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius” set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement will not be able to be aborted in the near future.