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Drought

Drought is the ‘new normal’ in Portugal


Portugal has been ravaged by extreme drought. Since October there has been hardly any precipitation and in February it rained only 7% of normal. Drought not only compromises agriculture and livestock but lack of vegetation will also lead to an increase in CO2, wildfires, poverty, and emigration.


The Government announced that 95% of the territory – i.e. over 260 municipalities – is in severe drought, 66% even in extreme drought. Lack of rain and global warming are the main culprits. Water-saving restrictions are expected.



Dams are only half full and hydroelectric power decreased by almost 30% in the first two months of this year – compared to the same period in 2021 – whereas wind energy went down by more than 20%. Forecasts do not point to recovery to normal water levels by the end of September. It is the worst year for renewable energies in the last decade, the newspaper Jornal de Notícias reported.


Dams and reservoirs in the Algarve have enough water for human consumption in the event it doesn’t rain for two years, stated Antonio Pina, president of the Algarve Municipalities Association. At the same time, the use of water for irrigation of green spaces, golf, and agriculture is going to be limited.


Local districts have already submitted applications of 14 million euro’s to Portugal’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) – created by the European Council  – to fight water deficits.


Periods of drought are common and cyclical in the country. The Drought Observatory from the IPMA (Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere) recorded 12 significant drought episodes – often extending more than one year – over the last 75 years and concludes that there is a greater incidence of drought from the mid-1990s onwards.


The National Irrigation Federation (Fenareg) confirms that drought episodes in the last 30 years have been more frequent and more intense and highlights that the regions south of the Tagus (Alentejo, Algarve) are the most affected.



Some of the episodes stand out for their duration and intensity. The six most severe and longest occurred in 1943-46 / 1980-81 / 1990-92 / 2004-2006 / 2011-2012, and 2015-2018.
The 2004-6 drought was the most extensive (100% affected territory) and intense (i.e. consecutive months of severe drought).



In order for the drought to decrease, precipitation between March and May has to be much higher than normal, a situation that only occurs once every five to seven years. The question remains therefore whether the country – despite some recovery in the rainfall this month- will experience in 2022 the worst drought ever after an unusually dry and warm winter.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                (pic Público/Sapo)       












Greenhouse

July was the world’s hottest month on record.

The planet has reached +1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and is already starting to suffer the consequences with wildfires ravaging the US, Siberia, Greece, and Turkey, floods in Germany, Japan, and China, and thermometers hitting 50°C in Canada.

CO2 concentrations continue to rise and global warming is happening faster, warned United Nations, climate experts. In 2030 the limit of the Paris agreement (+1,5°C) could already be reached, 10 years earlier than estimated!

Temperatures are expected to rise even quicker around the Mediterranean. In Lisbon, average summer temperatures are predicted to rise from 28 to 34 degrees and the number of extremely hot days ( > 35°C) from 5 to 50 per year. Sea levels in the Algarve will rise by 20-30 cm.

However, hope gives life. Portugal is at the forefront of the European energy transition, according to the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyden.

There has been a significant rise in the consumption of renewable energy thanks to a reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels and the closure of the country’s biggest coal-fired power plant in Sines. Renewable energy production now supplies 68% of the electric consumption in Portugal.

Compared to other European countries, the country consumes less energy – about half of the EU average – and produces less waste. On the other hand, the country has one of the lowest rates of recycling materials, only one-fifth of the EU average.

The country rose eight places last year on the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) – a comparative analysis of climate protection in 57 countries led by Sweden – currently occupying place 17. Although greenhouse gases are decreasing in half of the countries analyzed, none of the countries is on a path compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement of 2015.

This summer two hydrogen-powered buses started circulating in the seaside resort of Cascais. It is the first municipality in the country to have electric buses powered by the energy generated onboard using a fuel cell.

The buses will serve two routes closely linked to nature. One along the sea, serving Guincho beach, and the other serving the Sintra-Cascais Natural park.

Contrary to popular belief, the Portuguese do not seem to be overly concerned about increases in fuel or heating prices as long as this contributes to the EU target of reducing emissions by at least 55% until 2030. A recent survey by the European Federation of Transport and Environment showed that more than 70% of the Portuguese want their government to increase efforts to slow down greenhouse emissions.

That climate change can also lead to unexpected side effects, shows the arrival of a colony of about 3000 flamingos – for the first time successfully nesting in the Algarve and the return of dolphins in the Lisbon Tagus.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Público/Ptnews)