The world’s rivers are drying up from drought and heat. This is what 6 looks like from space

A painful lack of rain and relentless heat waves are drying up rivers in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many are shrinking lengthwise and widthwise. Patches of riverbed protruding above the water are a common sight. Some rivers are so dry that they have become practically impassable.

The man-made climate crisis is fueling extreme weather around the world, affecting not only rivers, but also the people who depend on them. Most people on the planet depend on rivers in some way, whether it be for drinking water, irrigating food, for energy, or transporting goods.

See what six of them look like from space.

The Colorado River is drying up on its banks and getting thinner as a historic drought in the western US shows little sign of abating. The river is crucially maintained by two of the country’s largest reservoirs, and to safeguard the river basin, the government has implemented mandatory water cuts and asked states to propose additional action plans.
One such reservoir, Lake Mead, is shrinking in size as water levels drop toward “dead pool” status, the point at which the reservoir won’t be high enough to release water downstream to through a dam. Its water levels have been on a downward trend since 2000, but have had a steeper drop since 2020. The lake has dropped so much in the past year that wild discoveries have been made, including human remains in a barrel — an alleged homicide victim from decades ago. And the consequences of the Colorado River crisis are enormous: About 40 million people in seven states and Mexico depend on river water for drinking, agriculture and electricity.

the yangtze river

The Yangtze River in Asia is drying up on its banks and its bed is emerging in some areas. But it is the tributaries of the Yangtze that are already intensely dry. Porcelain A nationwide drought alert has been announced. for the first time in nine years, and its heat wave is the longest in six decades.
The impact of the drying up of the Yangtze has been enormous. In Sichuan, a province of 84 million people, hydropower accounts for about 80% of power capacity. Much of that comes from the Yangtze River, and as its flow slows, power generation has dropped, leaving authorities to fend for themselves. all its factories closed for six days. The province is seeing about half of the rain it usually gets and some reservoirs have dried up completely, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

the river rhine

The Rhine begins in the Swiss Alps, flows through Germany and the Netherlands, and then flows into the North Sea. It is a crucial channel for European shipping, but at the moment it is a nightmare to navigate.

Parts of the riverbed have risen above the surface of the water, which means that boats trying to pass it have to negotiate a series of obstacles, slowing down the entire process.

The Rhine has many different widths along the way, including at Kaub, just west of Frankfurt, Germany, where water levels have dropped up to 32 centimeters (12.6 inches). Shipping companies generally consider anything below 40cm on the Rhine too low to bother with, and in Kaub, less than 75cm usually means a container ship has to reduce its load to about 30%. according to economists at Deutsche Bank. Low water levels also mean businesses pay higher levees to get through, and all of these factors make shipping more expensive, a cost that is typically passed on to consumers.

the river po

The Po River runs through the upper part of Italy and flows east towards the Adriatic Sea. It feeds on the snow of winter in the Alps and the heavy rains of spring, and has a strong fall that generates a rapid flow. Typically, devastating floods are more of a problem around this river.
But now, the Po looks very different. Winter was dry in northern Italy, so snow provided little water, and spring and summer have also been dry, plunging the region into the worst drought it has experienced in seven decades. It is so dry that a WWII-era bomb found recently in the midst of its ebbing waters.

A big problem is that millions of people depend on the Po for their livelihood, mainly through agriculture. About 30% of Italy’s food is produced along the Po, and some of the country’s most famous exports, like Parmesan cheese, are made here.

the river loire

The Loire in France supports a valley of vineyards that produce some of the most famous wines in the world. The river stretches for some 600 miles and is considered France’s last wild river, home to biodiverse ecosystems throughout the valley, many of which are protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and culture.

Parts of the river are already quite shallow, but its levels and flow can change rapidly with the weather and when the snow at its source melts. Some sections are so dry from lack of rain and extreme heat that people can cross on foot.

Satellite images of the French city of Saumur show more river bed than exposed water in the Loire. The patches of land around it in the valley are mostly brown and withered; a year ago, they were lush and green. The authorities are discharging water from the dams into the river, mainly to ensure there is enough to cool four nuclear power plants who sits along it.

the danube river

The Danube is the longest river in Western Europe and a crucial shipping channel that runs through 10 countries. In Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria, workers are dredging the river just to ensure ships can still navigate it.

It’s not in as dire a condition as some of Europe’s other rivers, but countries like Hungary rely so heavily on the Danube for tourism that the impacts are already being felt. Some cruise ships have been unable to traverse parts of the river even to reach Hungary. Those that are still operating cannot stop on their normal routes because many stations have had to close due to the drop in water level on the riverbanks. An average 1,600-ton ship can now only navigate the Hungarian leg without cargo, according to the country’s tourist office.

CNN’s Julia Buckley, Laura He, Angela Fritz and Rachel Ramirez, as well as journalist Barbie Nadeau, contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.