the deep storms of the Atlantic vs. the drought

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Finally, after months of waiting, Spain has fully entered autumn. A real autumn because, despite having temperatures higher than the historical average, the polar jet is sending us a huge amount of Atlantic storms and active fronts. In the next few hours, moreover, the Gulf of Genoa you will see how Denise forms, another powerful storm that will encourage the situation in the east of the peninsula and the Balearic Islands. Water gushes down, what about the drought?

What are we talking about when we talk about drought? As we tend to talk about these things only when it affects us, we run the risk of confusing ‘drought’ with ‘scarcity’. Drought is a “temporary abnormality of precipitation or natural flow”. That is, there is less water than it should. Depending on the level of existing water demand in the area, there may or may not be a shortage.

In fact, there can be ‘shortage’ even if there is no drought if there is a permanent situation of water deficit: if we consume more than we have. In a certain way, as if following the well-known say’s lawwe tend to use all available water (be it for human, agricultural and industrial purposes) and that is what makes us vulnerable to drought.

The problem (for us) is that it is a complex issue Because there is not only one type of drought. As we can see in the Meteorological Drought Monitor of the CSIC things have evolved very positively. There are some areas of the country that continue to have a very dry climate, it is true, but the situation has improved significantly in terms of rainfall in recent months. The problem is that, with these maps, what we measure is the meteorological drought.

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Situation – Meteorological Drought – August

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Situation – Meteorological Drought – November

What does that mean? ‘Meteorological drought’ is basically a continuous lack of precipitation. What the CSIC basically does is collect data from weather stations throughout the country and compose a map. More factors (such as evaporation) are taken into account, but this monitor tells us how much water is entering the system.

The ‘meteorological drought’ is very important because it is the key factor that, in the long run, triggers the rest of the droughts, but it is necessary to study it as if it were a “photo”. To fully understand what situation we are in, we will have to see how the system was previously and, to what extent, these rains are going to solve the problems that we are dragging. In other words: we need to analyze the ‘water drought’.

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Water drought? Effectively: “the decrease in the availability of surface and groundwater in the system”, the water that we have available. Ultimately, it is meteorological drought and water management that produce water drought: however, their relationship is not immediate. The water is “an accumulation” of the weather.

To study how the situation is, the quickest thing to do is go to the National Hydrological Bulletin, where we can see a very detailed analysis of the state of the dammed water in the swamps and basins. In general, the Ministry’s data confirms the trend pointed out by the CSIC: in the last week, 91 hm³ of water have entered (which means an increase of 0.16% over the current reserve).

For the rest, we see that except in specific areas (the Cantabrian and the Tinto basin, the Odiel and the Piedras river) the general situation is bad. It’s no surprise. Since 2014 we have had hydrological seasons with below-average rainfall and this, when accumulated, causes what we see on the map: that we barely have 30% of the water reserves that we could have.

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State of surface water masses

All this has consequences. And I’m not just referring to the several hundred municipalities with water restrictions. It is something more serious because, like it or not, we are approaching the point of no return. 47.1% of the rivers and 49.16% of the country’s lakes, ponds and beaches They are in poor condition. they are too 44.23% of the groundwater masses. This is a problem because it is from there that we extract the water.

Obviously, it is not just a matter of drought, but the lack of water makes our riverbeds especially sensitive to wastewater discharges and other forms of direct pollution from the rivers. The chemical and environmental risks increase and the fragility of the system as well.

"Storms, storms and more storms": the polar jet will bring snow and winter suddenly to Spain

What situation are we in? That is the fundamental question. The Atlantic corridor has put us in an excellent situation to receive a huge amount of water and we need it. We need it because much of our country’s key watersheds fill up in the fall. And the question is whether this atmospheric configuration will last long enough to alleviate the worst consequences of the drought. It is not clear, but there is a party. And that is already saying a lot.

Finally, after months of waiting, Spain has fully entered autumn. A real autumn because, despite having temperatures higher than the…

Finally, after months of waiting, Spain has fully entered autumn. A real autumn because, despite having temperatures higher than the…

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