What is drought?

Dust-dry soils, low water in rivers, risk of forest fires - that was seen in many places in Germany in 2018 and 2019. There was significantly less rainfall than the long-term average and high temperatures, so there was talk of drought years. Spring 2020 was also drier than the average of previous years. But when does one actually speak of drought?

Sunny, warm and far too dry - that was spring 2020, according to records from the German Weather Service (DWD). The sun was shining for around 705 hours, making spring 2020, together with that of 2011, the sunniest since the beginning of measurement in 1951. The average temperature of 9.2 degrees Celsius in spring 2020 was 1.5 degrees above the value of the reference years 1961 to 1990. And despite some rains in May, the rainfall of 108 liters per square meter was well below the average for the seventh time in a row. According to the DWD, spring 2020 is one of the six rain-poorest in precipitation since 1881. Under these circumstances, 2020 could also become a so-called drought year. The Helmholtz Climate Initiative and klimafakten.de have prepared in a factsheet what that means.

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