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Danish state forecaster warns of 'drought as bad as 2018'

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish state forecaster warns of 'drought as bad as 2018'
A barley field near Barmer in Denmark during the drought of 2018. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark's state weather forecaster DMI is reporting an extremely high risk of drought for this summer, likening conditions to 2018, when the country was hit by "the most severe drought in modern times".

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In a new drought update on its website, the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) rated the risk of drought and 9 or 10 out of ten across Zealand, and between 7 and 10 for most of Jutland, one of the worst outlooks seen in recent decades. 

"In the 19 years that DMI has made drought calculations, we have only had such a high drought index this early in the year twice before, namely in 2008 and 2020," Mikael Scharling, a climatologist at DMI, said in a press release. 

He said low rainfall in April and May meant that even if rainfall was normal throughout June, there was still a high risk of drought, with the water deficit in Denmark equivalent to about half the rain Denmark normally gets in June. 

"Such a deficiency is difficult to make up; even if the amount of precipitation for June were to normalise, there is a high probability that the drought index will remain red," he said. 

The dry weather over the past few months is because of a high pressure zone that has been hanging over the British Isles, with a small spur in the form of a high pressure ridge over towards Denmark.

According to the forecasts, the high pressure area may not weaken until as late as August, bringing major challenges to Danish farmers. 

Denmark's drought index has only been this high in two years since it was started, 2008 and 2020. Photo: DMI
 

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In the summer of 2018, farmers' crops withered and turned brown due to the lack of rainfall. 

"It is not yet a disaster for Danish agriculture, but it looks suspiciously like the drought in 2018. Things could go badly wrong, but we will only know when it has happened. It is already affecting the yield for farmers," Jens Elbæk, head of the plants and environment department at SEGES Innovation, an independent, non-profit research and development organisation focused on agriculture. 

Scharling stressed in the press release that long-term forecasts were unpredictable, and that the high pressure zone could potentially break this month bringing more rain. 

"Forecasts that go so far into the future are, however, subject to a relatively large degree of uncertainty, so it can go the other way," he said. 

But even if this does happen, some damage has already been done, he said. 

"The plants are vulnerable at the start of the growing season. And once the drought has established itself, evaporation will be high even if rainfall does occur during the summer." 

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