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European Union warns of "very critical situation" as drought threatens 60% of EU and U.K.

Drought conditions are affecting about 60% of the EU and the U.K., exacerbated by climate-change driven record heat across Europe this summer, according to new research from the European Drought Observatory.

Why it matters: Dry conditions are severely affecting energy production, agriculture and river transport, with countries including France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands facing critical water shortages and riverbeds across Europe drying out.

  • It's also leading to "increased fire danger due to the lack of rain and the resulting dry vegetation, combined with high temperatures" the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service notes, as wildfires continue to burn across Europe.
  • With many European countries expected to experience continued dry conditions in August and September, it adds concern "to the already very critical situation," noted the European Commission's European Drought Observatory in July.
  • It would also "exacerbate drought severity and the impacts on agriculture, energy and water supply," according to the Observatory.

The big picture: The European Drought Observatory examined data over a 10-day period toward the end of July and discovered that 45% of the EU's territory was under drought warning conditions by the middle of the month, while 15% was on "red alert" and in severe water deficiency.

  • In England, the regions of East Anglia, the southeast and the south faced their driest ever July as a historic heat wave struck, according to the U.K. Met Office.

What they're saying: "Droughts have become our summer reality," tweeted Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Commission's Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, on Tuesday.

  • 100 municipalities in France have no running water, the Rhine River's levels in Germany and France are so low the transportation of goods is under threat and the Netherlands "faces an official water shortage," Sinkevičius noted.
  • "Restoring Nature is the best solution to change this," he added.

What to watch: Another heat wave was forecast to hit parts of northwestern and central Europe this week, as the U.K. Center for Ecology and Hydrology warned Wednesday that drought conditions would remain until October.

  • The Met Office has issued another amber heat warning for much of southern England and parts of Wales for Thursday through Sunday, on the back of its first ever extreme heat warning last month.

In photos: Drought devastates European landscapes

People on Aug. 9 sit on Primrose Hill in London, England, where the grass is dry due to lack of water. The Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat covering four days from Aug.11-14 for parts of England and Wales as a new heatwave looms. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images
A partially dried pond near Aire-sur-Adour, southwestern France, on Aug. 9. -The French government has activated a drought crisis task force. Water restrictions have been ordered in nearly all of France's 96 mainland departments. Photo: GaizkaA Iroz/AFP via Getty Images
The dry Rhine Riverbed in Bad Honnef, Germany on Aug. 9. Photo: Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Rocks in sight due to drought in the riverbed in Escairon, Lugo, Galicia, Spain, on Aug. 9. Photo: Carlos Castro/Europa Press via Getty Images
People walk on the dried Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Aug. 3 after France recorded its driest July on record. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images
The dry banks of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany, on Aug. 3. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Go deeper: Earth sees a top 3 hottest July, marked by deadly heat, flash floods

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