Lots of sun in Berlin and Brandenburg - but drought causes problems

Wed 11th May, 2022

Photo by Ethan RobertsonAfter several dry months now summery outdoor weather already at the beginning of May: Maximum temperatures of up to 28 degrees are expected by the German Weather Service (DWD) on Tuesday in Berlin and Brandenburg. Even if clouds move in, it should not rain. Wednesday is expected to remain cloudy. In Brandenburg, temperatures between 23 and 26 degrees are expected, in Berlin, the maximum temperature is expected to be even between 26 and 29 degrees.

Meteorologists speak of a summer day from 25 degrees. What sounds pleasing for the moment, tempting to a visit to the outdoor pool or the ice cream parlor, turns out to be problematic when you broaden your view.

"The rainfall so far this year has not been so low that one could already speak of a catastrophe," Derk Ehlert of the Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer and Climate Protection said Tuesday in response to a question. "But you have to take the situation seriously. We already have a deficit for the current year - not to mention that the extreme drought of 2018 to 2020 in our region has not yet been compensated."

Trees are not doing well, Ehlert said, "What's true in the forest is even more true for urban trees." While the current year's drought is not yet causing immediately visible damage to trees, this could be the case in subsequent years, he said. "Trees need a lot of liquid in the spring for leaf development. If it's quite dry for a year or two, that's tolerable for a tree. But then it needs years of more moisture to recover."

Data on soil moisture from an example site in Neukölln, which the Plant Protection Office posts on the Internet, show that the value at a depth of 85 centimeters has currently fallen to a critical level - as it was only reached about a month later in 2021.

Forecasted values do not indicate any improvement for the next few days either. As soon as the curve drops into the red zone, which was repeatedly the case last year between June and September, "an additional watering would make sense depending on the plant species and size," writes the Plant Protection Office.

March 2022 was fourth driest month since 1908

As a result of climate change, rainfall in Berlin is decreasing and drought is increasing: the region is facing its fifth consecutive year of drought. According to DWD data, 30 liters of precipitation per square meter were recorded in Berlin in April - less than the average value of the international reference period 1961 to 1990, which is 40 liters per square meter. And this rain was concentrated on a few days.

March was even more out of the ordinary, with only one liter of precipitation per square meter; here, the comparative value was 37. It thus went down in the statistics as the fourth driest month since weather records began in 1908. In February, the DWD had also counted Berlin among the driest regions.

This also continues the debate about the right climate policy. Berlin has committed itself in the Climate Protection and Energy Transition Act to becoming climate neutral by 2045 by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A petition for a referendum, "Berlin 2030 Climate Neutral," calls for this goal to be achieved 15 years earlier. However, the Senate rejects a tightening of the existing targets.

"We must now use all our energy to come up with really effective, concrete measures for climate protection and climate adaptation in the crucial sectors in Berlin - instead of always just writing new climate protection targets into laws," said Environment Senator Bettina Jarasch (Green Party) at the beginning of May.

Photo by Ethan Robertson


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