The Heat Is Online

Desert Conditions Spreading in Southern Europe

The process of desertification has already been underway for nearly 30 years in parts of Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy, according to a 1996, report by more than 40 European climate scientists working under the auspices of the European Commission. The scientists found during their five-year study that protracted droughts, punctuated by intense, soil-eroding downpours, are becoming the norm rather than the exception, as the earth’s atmosphere continues to warm. John Thornes of Kings College, London, who coordinated the study, told the New Scientist magazine, in July, 1996, that scientists discovered that the extended drought in Spain, between 1990 and 1995, was only part of the trend. The group’s new analyses of rainfall data revealed "a turning point toward progressively lower rainfall since 1963," he said. At the same time, he added, there has been "a clear increase in the number and duration of both heat waves and violent storms." The announcement of the scientists’ findings followed by two months a declaration by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that "the sustainability of Mediterranean agriculture appears questionable unless urgent and drastic measures are taken."

Citation: "Deserts on our doorstep," New Scientist, July 6, 1996.