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England has its driest July in almost 90 years as Europe swelters through historic heat waves

Europe faces heat wave, wildfires, extreme drought
Europe faces heat wave, wildfires and extreme drought 01:55

London — The parks of England, usually lush with green grass, have turned yellow. Even the spot known as the source of the mighty River Thames has dried up for the first time in decades.

The U.K. has experienced months of low rainfall and high temperatures. Last month was the driest July recorded in England in almost 90 years, since 1935.

The British government's environmental agency has warned that if the dry conditions continue, "many parts of England will move into drought."

The combination of low rainfall and successive heat waves has hit farmers hard. Some are already seeing their crop yields decline. Vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts should be planted now to harvest in the winter, but with much of their land parched, some farmers are delaying planting the new crop.

Others are going ahead, unsure how much might survive. 

Cows eat straw and grass silage which is normally a winter feed, in Harpole
Cows eat straw and grass silage, which is normally a winter feed, at a farm in Harpole, near Northampton, England, August 10, 2022. The cows have been on the supplementary food from the start of August due to hot, dry weather and lack of fresh grass. ANDREW BOYERS/REUTERS

The dry conditions are also affecting livestock farmers. Fields where cattle graze have dried the grass that should be feeding on now. Just like in the U.S., many British and European farmers are already using their winter feed, which could cause problems later in the year.

Much of the European continent struggling under similar conditions, with dry spells and heat waves shrinking waterways, cracking farmland and allowing wild fires to rage.

More than 60% of the EU and U.K.'s combined lands are now under drought warnings or alerts, according to the European Drought Observatory.

One senior scientist with the European Commission warned that Europe is on course to suffer through its worst drought in 500 years.

Extreme heat scorches parts of Europe, affecting infrastructure and food production 05:05

Wildfires are charring thousands of acres of tinder-dry brush and destroying homes in Spain, Portugal and France.

French officials have already declared it the country's "most severe" drought on record. Authorities there say dozens of municipalities have seen their drinking water supplies run dry, leaving them to rely on water brought in by tanker trucks.

In Germany, water levels of the Rhine River have dropped so far that it's making it harder for ships to transport goods, including coal and gasoline, which the country sorely needs amid soaring global energy prices.

Historic drought in Italy threatens precious traditions 02:26

Some ships are being forced to carry only 25% of their usual cargo capacity to avoid running aground.

Scientists have said heat waves are increasing in both frequency and intensity faster in Europe than almost anywhere else on Earth, and they say human-induced climate change is playing a critical role in those changing weather patterns.

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