(ORDO NEWS) — In the summer of 2018 and 2019, Central Europe experienced severe water shortages and levels have remained low ever since.
Severe drought in the region is destroying the natural habitat of animals, harming agriculture and leading to severe energy shortages, scientists say.
The summer of 2022 clearly demonstrated the effects of a prolonged severe drought in Europe.
Scientists warn that Europe is facing a catastrophe due to dwindling groundwater supplies.
In the summer of 2018 and 2019, Central Europe experienced severe water shortages. Since then, its level has remained low.
According to the study, severe drought destroys the natural habitat of animals, harms agriculture and leads to severe energy shortages.
Dry riverbeds and the gradual disappearance of water bodies have had a negative impact on both nature and humans: many aquatic animal species have lost their natural habitat, and dry soil has created many problems for agriculture.
In addition, the drought led to an energy shortage: due to the lack of cooling water, French nuclear power plants struggled to generate enough electricity.
Insufficient volumes of water have also created problems for the operation of hydroelectric power plants.
To monitor the world‘s groundwater resources, a team of scientists has for several years used gravity data from two satellites that orbit the Earth in a polar orbit at an altitude of just under 490 km.
They give information about the total mass of water, from which indicators of changes in rivers and lakes, as well as soil moisture, snow and ice, are then subtracted. As a result, only a mass of groundwater remains.
The distance between the satellites of about 200 kilometers was critical to the project, and it was constantly and carefully measured.
The one behind could not catch up with the one in front, so they were nicknamed “Tom and Jerry”. If they flew over a mountain, then the speed of the satellite in front was faster due to the increased mass below it.
After flying over the mountain, it again slowed down a little, and the satellite behind it accelerated as soon as it reached the mountain. As soon as both satellites passed the top, their speeds equalized again.
Changes in distance over large volumes of water are the main way to determine the Earth’s gravitational field, which is measured to the nearest micrometer. For comparison, the thickness of a hair is 50 micrometers.
Satellites fly at a speed of 30,000 km/h. and circle the Earth 15 times a day. In a month, they can cover the entire globe, which makes it possible to obtain a gravitational map of the planet on a monthly basis.
The author of the project, Professor Torsten Mayer-Gurr from the Technical University in Graz, Austria, said: “The processing and computational effort here is quite large.”
“We measure the distance every five seconds and thus make about half a million measurements per month. Based on these data, we then determine the maps of the gravitational field,” he added.
However, gravity maps cannot show the exact amount of water underground because satellites do not distinguish between seas, lakes, and groundwater.
In order to calculate the individual volumes for each water body, the help of other partners in the EU G3P project had to be enlisted.
After the Tom and Jerry satellites provided data on the total mass of water, indicators of changes in rivers and lakes, as well as soil moisture, snow and ice, were subtracted from them, thereby leaving only the mass of groundwater.
The result of this cooperation shows that the situation with groundwater reserves has become very dangerous.
“I never imagined that here in Europe water would become a problem, especially for Germany and Austria,” said Prof. Torsten Meier-Gürr. “The groundwater situation is serious, it’s time to think about it.”
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