The hellish heat wave is finally breaking in Europe, and being replaced with severe storms. Now Europe is wondering if hot summers may become permanent, due to global warming. If this is the case, they’ll need to find new places to grow food.
Andy Coghlan writes in New Scientist that the European Commission (EC) has issued a bulletin saying that the recent drought caused major changes in agricultural output, especially in southern Europe. These changes fit earlier predictions about the effects of global warming.
In the U.S. new weather forecasts predict wetter weather over the next century on the East and West coasts, while the center of the country, our traditional breadbasket, will become too dry to support agriculture.
Global warming doesn’t mean we’ll no longer be able to feed ourselves, but it does mean we’ll have to move our farms if we’re going to do so.
The EC report says the European heatwave has cut corn and sugar beet yields in Italy by a quarter and wheat yields in Portugal by a third. However, crop yields have risen in northern Europe, which did not experience drought. The warm weather in Ireland increased their sugar beet yields by a quarter. Denmark and Sweden’s sugar beet crops are up 5%, and canola yields rose by 12% in Finland.
This shift is almost exactly what was predicted in 2002 by J?rgen Olesen of the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Marco Bindi of the University of Florence. They said agricultural productivity will rise in northern Europe as the region becomes wetter, and higher temperatures and increased carbon dioxide levels will help even more.
But in southern Europe, temperature changes will lead to water shortages and lower crop yields, and agriculture could end in some regions. “With drier conditions in the south, it will be difficult to maintain dairy production, for example, and there will be parts of southern Europe where agricultural production is no longer viable,” says Olesen. “If there’s competition for [water], urban areas will probably win over agriculture.”
In the U.S., the Joint Global Change Research Institute predicts that rainfall will increase across much of the country, especially towards the end of this century. “The eastern part is likely to be the wettest,” says researcher C
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