Researchers at the University of Ghent and the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands have demonstrated the role drought in the countries of the South plays in the increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves in Europe, the Belgian university disclosed on Tuesday.
The two bouts of extreme heat in Europe this summer may also be linked to this phenomenon.
With the help of satellites and models, the researchers were able to determine that the movement of hot air from drought-affected areas were responsible for about 30% of the abnormal heat observed during the 2003 and 2010 heatwaves in Europe.
The two phenomena, drought in the south and heat elsewhere, appear to succeed each other.
Sudden changes in wind direction displaces hot air from the arid zones. This hot air is made hotter, along the way, by the dry conditions, whereas it is normally cooled by the vegetation and oceans, explains the study’s main author, Dominik Schumaker (University of Ghent).
This summer, “because of the dry conditions in France and Spain, hot, dry air from North Africa penetrated deep into the Continent,” he said. A similar situation obtained in 2003 and 2010, but with air from the Eurasian territories, then suffering from extreme drought.
The study, financed by the European Research Council, was published on Monday in the British scientific magazine Nature Geoscience.
The explanation of a link between dry wind and heat wave is important for strategies on how to manage climate change ideally, according to University of Ghent Professor Diego Miralles.