Fall in number of snow days already contributed to this year’s drought
As northern Italy faces its worst drought in 70 years, a study warns that the snow on the Alps is rapidly disappearing. If greenhouse emissions aren’t reduced, the number of snowy days will halve by the end of the century.
The study, which was published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, says that 2,500-high mountains will lose 76 days of snow and the lower altitudes will almost lose snow altogether, with just five days of snow expected each year at 500 metres.
The study also says if emissions are cut at the rate outlined in the Paris Agreement, more than 80% of snow days in the Alps can be saved.
The drought in the north of the country is currently causing river levels to be so low that ships can no longer transport goods along them.
The River Po, which is 403 miles long and runs across northern Italy, is running dry because of high temperatures, low rainfall and a lack of snow earlier in the year. This is having a detrimental impact on drinking water supplies, hydroelectric power and farming.
“There are parts of the fields with no plants and others where they grow regularly,” said director of Reclaiming the Po, Giancarlo Mantovani. “If there is no rain in the next 10 or 15 days, the crops that are not yet lost will be gone. At this stage, we are progressively losing the harvest.”
Coldiretti, the farmers’ association, estimates that the Po Valley drought threatens to cost agriculture €3billion if the crisis continues.
The drought has also affected the Tiber and Aniene Rivers in Lazio and the Arno River in Tuscany as well as depleting several lakes across Italy.
The state of Lombardy in the north has declared a state of emergency and the city of Milan has turned off all its fountains to conserve water. The President of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, described the drought as the worst the area has ever experienced.
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