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Drought threatens 60% of EU and UK as Europe faces "critical situation"

Drought conditions are affecting about 60% of the EU and the U.K., exacerbated by climate-change driven record heat across Europe this summer, according to new research from the European Drought Observatory.

France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands are facing water shortages and riverbeds are drying out across Europe. Dry conditions are severely affecting energy production, agriculture and river transportation.


There is an "increased fire danger due to the lack of rain and the resulting dry vegetation, combined with high temperatures," the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service notes — as wildfires continue to burn across Europe.


In southwest France, a blaze burning in Gironde since July roared back to life, forcing the evacuation of nearly 6,000 people on Wednesday, per France 24.


Meanwhile, many European countries are expected to see continued dry conditions in August and September, adding "to the already very critical situation," noted the European Commission's European Drought Observatory in July.


This would "exacerbate drought severity and the impacts on agriculture, energy and water supply," the Observatory said.


The big picture: The European Drought Observatory examined data over a 10-day period toward the end of July and discovered that 45% of the EU's territory was under drought warning conditions by the middle of the month, while 15% was on "red alert" and in severe water deficiency.


In the United Kingdom, where Met Office data shows the English regions of East Anglia, the southeast and the south faced their driest ever July as a historic heat wave struck, the U.K. Center for Ecology and Hydrology warned drought conditions were likely to remain until October.


What they're saying: "Droughts have become our summer reality," tweeted Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Commission's commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries, on Tuesday.


100 municipalities in France have no running water, the Rhine River's levels in Germany and France are so low the transportation of goods is under threat, and the Netherlands "faces an official water shortage," Sinkevičius noted.


"Restoring Nature is the best solution to change this," he added.


The Met Office has issued an amber heat warning for much of southern England and parts of Wales for Thursday through Sunday, on the heels of its first ever extreme heat warning last month. Heat alerts are also in effect across France.


London is forecast to see temperatures of 90°F (33°C) or above for four straight days starting Thursday, and temperatures will soar above 100°F in Spain, Portugal and parts of France through the end of the week.


The extreme heat will worsen the drought by drying out soils further.


Climate change raised the odds of and increased the severity of the previous European heat wave, and is likely a key driver of this event, which is the region's fourth this summer.


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