High temperatures fueled by climate change dried out soils across Europe and the Northern Hemisphere this summer, find researchers.

The 2022 Northern Hemisphere summer was one of the hottest ever recorded in Europe with over 24,000 heat-related fatalities, and it brought intense heatwaves to parts of China and North America. It was also very dry, and the resulting drought caused widespread water shortages, wildfires, and crop failures leading to higher food prices, as well as impacts on electricity supply.

A team of climate scientists led by the research group of Sonia Seneviratne, professor for land-climate dynamics at ETH Zurich, analyzed the possible influence of climate change on this extreme weather event on behalf of World Weather Attribution.

Their study shared by World Weather Attribution estimates that human-caused climate change made soil moisture drought conditions in the Northern Hemisphere at least 20 times more likely, threatening crop production and adding further pressure to food prices and food security.

For their study, the researchers analyzed soil moisture levels in June, July, and August 2022, across the whole Northern Hemisphere, excluding the tropics. They also focused on Western and Central Europe, which experienced particularly severe drought with substantially reduced crop yields. Soil moisture dryness in the top meter of soil—the root zone where plants extract water—is often referred to as agricultural and ecological drought.

Human-caused climate change made agricultural and ecological droughts in the North Hemisphere extratropics at least 20 times more likely, the researchers found. They calculated that drought conditions like this summer’s can be expected around once in 20 years in today’s climate. If humans had not warmed the planet, the agricultural drought conditions in the Northern Hemisphere would only have been expected around once in 400 years or less.

Read the full article about summer droughts at Futurity.