A shortage of wine and olives may occur due to climate change. Pressure drops over The North Atlantic may lead to drought in some parts of Portugal and Spain.
According to a new study, Portugal and Spain is the driest country in Europe in a thousand years due to the Azores Maximum, an area of high atmospheric pressure caused by climate change.
The Azores maximum rotates clockwise over parts of the North Atlantic and has a major impact on weather and long-term climate trends in Western Europe. A new study shows that this area of high pressure “has changed dramatically over the last century, and that these changes in the climate of the North Atlantic are unprecedented in the last millennium.”
What does it threaten
Using climate modeling over the past 1,200 years, researchers from The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA, found that this area of high pressure began to grow and cover a large area about 200 years ago, when greenhouse gas pollution began to grow. The area expanded more dramatically in the twentieth century, in line with global warming.
The authors then examined evidence of precipitation levels in Portuguese stalagmites and found that as the height of the Azores increased, winters in the western Mediterranean became drier.
All this suggests that precipitation levels may fall by another 10-20% by the end of this century. This would make Iberian agriculture “one of the most vulnerable in Europe,” the authors say.
They warn that the height of the Azores will continue to increase during the 21st century as greenhouse gas levels rise, leading to an increased risk of drought on The Iberian Peninsula and will endanger key crops such as grapes and olives.
According to the study, the area suitable for growing grapes on The Iberian Peninsula, could shrink by at least a quarter, and potentially almost completely disappear by 2050 (due to acute water shortages).
The researchers also predicted a 30% reduction in olive production in the regions in southern Spain by 2100.