01.03.2019 | Gottardo Pestalozzi | News WSL
In 2018, Central and Northern Europe – including Switzerland – experienced one of this region's most severe droughts of recent decades. WSL is now analysing its measurements and observations from that summer with a view to improving how droughts are handled.
WSL researchers have started to analyse the events of summer 2018 with regard to drought classification, early detection of drought, early leaf discolouration, lightning-induced forest fires, medium- and long-term effects and public perception.
In some cases that summer, river runoff and lake water levels hit lows never recorded before. Indeed, groundwater levels on the northern side of the Alps had still not recovered by the end of the year. In the agricultural sector, the drought led to significant crop failures, while in many places unusually early discolouration of the leaves on the trees were a sure sign of the heat and the lack of water. WSL measurements showed that water availability in common forest tree species temporarily fell well below the long-term average values.
For decades, forestry, hydrology and biodiversity have been focal areas for the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL. Its experience and data series going back many years are helping place the events of summer 2018 in a wider context, allowing sense to be made of them.
13 analyses before summer 2019
The findings from a series of short analyses will contribute to improving drought forecasting and handling, thanks in particular to the further development of the pilot portal drought.ch.