2022 drought in France

Article

August 15, 2022

The 2022 drought in France is an episode of drought on the territory of metropolitan France since the beginning of 2022. This situation begins with a water deficit in the winter of 2021-2022, marked by low rainfall, and results in restrictions on water use in the summer as well as a series of fires in several metropolitan areas.

Timeline

The drought set in from the winter of 2021-2022. Hydrologist Emma Haziza finds that the year 2022 is characterized by a lack of precipitation in winter and spring. As of April 11, eight departments implemented measures to restrict water use. The anticipation and hydrological monitoring committee of May 18 identified risks of drought. The Ministry for Ecological Transition publishes a mapping of the risk of drought by department for the whole of metropolitan France with 3 levels of risk: very probable, probable and possible. In July, only 9 mm of rain fell. It was the driest month of July since the beginning of the measurements in 1959. The drought affected the entire territory of metropolitan France. Drought is manifested in particular by the low snow cover in the Alps, a historically low level of rivers and a very low level of lakes such as Lake Serre-Ponçon or Lake Sainte-Croix. July arrives after an already very dry spring. The Drôme department, for example, has been on drought alert since April 7, 2022. On August 2, 2022, all of the 96 departments of metropolitan France were placed on drought alert. Among these departments, 60 departments are considered to be in drought crisis on August 3. On August 5, 2022, the Minister for Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu, announced that “more than a hundred municipalities” are deprived of drinking water, a situation described as “historic”. On August 5, 2022, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced the creation of an interministerial crisis unit.

Background

Historical perspective

Over the previous 50 years, France has experienced other drought episodes, notably in 1976, in 1989-1990, in 2003, in 2011 and in the fall of 2018. The drought of 2022 is comparable in intensity to the episodes of 1976 and 2003 according to climatologist Jean-Michel Soubeyroux.

Weather situation

In parallel with the drought of 2022, metropolitan France is affected like most European countries by several episodes of heat wave. The drought reinforces the energy crisis in Europe linked to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Causes and Explanations

In autumn 2021, the groundwater situation was generally favourable. The 2021-2022 groundwater recharge period was largely in deficit. This is largely explained by the rainfall deficit for the winter of 2021-2022. Locally, the hydrological situation depends on the type of tablecloth. Inertial groundwater maintains a low degraded water level, while reactive groundwater is directly affected by the lack of rain.

Consequences

Fires

Drought results in forest fires, in particular megafires in Gironde and water restrictions. The European forest fire information system lists more than 47,000 hectares of burned areas in the first seven months of the year, already exceeding the year 2019 when 43,600 ha had burned. By way of comparison, the Orléans forest with an area of ​​50,000 ha, including 35,000 ha of state forest, is the largest in France in this register. Regions usually spared from these forest fire phenomena, such as Brittany, are also concerned, “whose spread has been facilitated