Drought in eastern Netherlands linked to climate change: study

While scientists were initially reluctant to link the Netherlands' record dry summer in 2018 to climate change, a study by meteorological institute KNMI and Utrecht University showed that global warming was behind the drought, but only in Eastern Netherlands, NU.nl reports.

Climate models are very clear about what the Netherlands can expect in the future. Winters will get more westerly winds and more rain, summers will be hotter and drier. The droughts will have two main causes - increased evaporation as a direct result of the rising temperatures, and likely also longer consecutive periods without rain as a result of an increase in summer high pressure areas above the North Sea. 

In the record dry summer of 2018 KNMI was reluctant to link the drought to global warming, because while the Dutch winters were already milder and wetter, and summers were noticeably hotter, summer downpours were also rising. But a further investigation launched with Utrecht University now showed that the 2018 drought could indeed be linked to global warming, albeit only regionally.

In the eastern half of the Netherlands, including the area that was most affected by the drought in 2018, there is a trend towards more drought, research leader Sjouke Philip said to NU.nl. "It is not driven by changing rainfall, but by the rising temperature and therefore increased evaporation." Extreme droughts are now more common in the eastern half of the Netherlands than in the middle of the last century. This year the meteorological summer started out even drier than in 2018

But that is not the case for the coastal region. In a narrow strip of 50 kilometers along the coast, the net amount of summer rain increased slightly. This is not a consequence of global warming, but a factor that locally compensated for the extra evaporation. The drought effect of climate change is therefore not yet visible in the coastal regions.