Health & Science

91% of Portugal under severe or extreme drought

Almost the entire territory of Portugal will soon be under severe or extreme drought according to the weather forecast for the end of February.

Umbrellas under clear sky in a street of Agueda, Portugal
Umbrellas under clear sky in a street of Agueda, Portugal | © Ricardo Resende, 2018

The national weather agency of Portugal reported on February 21 that 91% of the territory is now under severe or extreme drought.

The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA) published its bulletin based on the latest data up until February 15.

Since October 1, it rained only 220.8mm on average. It accounts for 39% of normal values calculated from levels recorded between 1971 and 2000. And the situation has worsened in the last few days.

During the first half of February, Portugal only received 7% of normal precipitation levels.

Periods of droughts aren’t unusual in Portugal but their frequency increased over the past 20 years. The quantity of precipitation during this winter is so far worse than previous droughts during winters of 2004-05, 2011-12 and 2017-18.

More than half of the territory (52.2%) is now considered to be in severe drought and 38.6% in extreme drought, the two highest levels on the index. The remaining 9.2% are in a moderate drought.

At the end of December 2021, only 8.7% of the territory was under severe drought and none under extreme drought, showing that the situation has kept worsening in the past few weeks. The worst predictions of the IPMA at the end of January proved to be correct.

The situation particularly hits the Algarve region in the south of Portugal, while only the extreme northwest is under a moderate drought.

The situation is not expected to improve anytime soon as there is no major precipitation expected by the end of February. “According to weather forecasts, the meteorological drought will very likely continue at the end of February, with almost the entire territory in the most severe ranks of the IPMA index”, the report concludes.

The Portuguese government is already restricting the use of five dams for hydroelectric power production, in order to save water for public consumption. Farmers are also asking for financial aid because of a lack of grass for their livestock.

As such, the ministers of Agriculture of Portugal and Spain on February 21 presented a set of measures to “minimize” the effects of the drought in the Iberian Peninsula to the European Commission.

Read more about Portugal

SITUAÇÃO DE SECA METEOROLÓGICA 15 de fevereiro de 2022, Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere, February 2022, Free access, PDF

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