Europe suffers as heat waves lead to wildfires and dried up rivers

Ed Hawkins, professor of climatology at the University of Reading in south-east England, told NBC News: “In the UK we had a nine-month spell of extremely light rainfall – it is very long without rain, even in our unpredictable climate.

“We can now expect to see drier summers and a lack of rainfall reflecting southern Europe in the UK, although southern Europe is also getting warmer.”

Already some 10,000 people have been evacuated from areas near the wildfires still raging in the Gironde region of western France. More than 26 square miles of pine forest have burned since Tuesday, with at least 16 homes destroyed amid the worst French drought in recorded history.

“It’s an ogre, a monster,” said Gregory Allione of the French fire brigade FNSPF, according to Reuters.

Some problems, such as drought, have accumulated over months of low rainfall and hot weather – at the height of summer, water levels in rivers such as the Rhine, Po and Danube drop to critical levels.

On the Rhine, a major artery for trade and energy supply, water levels are expected to reach the point this weekend where it is potentially dangerous for boats to navigate, threatening to suffocate a key point of shipping global.

Authorities predict levels at Kaub will soon drop below 40 centimeters (16 inches), considered a baseline, and will continue to fall over the weekend.

Many large ships could struggle to cross the river safely there, carrying anything as their usual load, leaving German power stations short of coal and other goods struggling for transport.

The Po, Italy’s longest river, has also dried up. Authorities declared a state of emergency last month for the areas surrounding the Po River, which accounts for around a third of the country’s agricultural production.

The source of the Thames, the river seen in so many postcard images of London, has also dried up, experts have said.