2017 was Italy’s driest year since 1800

This year has been the driest in Italy in more than two centuries, according to climate monitors.

2017 was Italy's driest year since 1800
The banks of the River Po in Linarolo, northern Italy, August 2017. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Between December 2016 and November 2017 Italy saw its lowest total rainfall since 1800, the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, part of Italy's National Research Council, said this week. 

All but three months had below average rainfall, August by as much as -82 percent. 

The last time Italy was nearly so dry was in 1945, when total rainfall was 29 percent below average. Over the past 12 months rainfall was more than 30 percent below the average, as calculated over 1971 to 2000.

The evidence of the drought is visible all over Italy, where reservoirs have been left severely depleted and swathes of farmland damaged. 

The source of Italy's River Po dried up completely last summer, with knock-on effects for agriculture across the north of Italy. At least ten Italian provinces called a state of emergency due to drought, while some cities rationed water and the Vatican switched off its fountains

The lack of rain, combined with a baking spring and summer, contributed to deadly wildfires that ravaged farm and woodland. The trees lost could take as long as 15 years to grow back, while farmers' groups estimate that the combined effects of drought, heat and fire have caused some €2 billion of damage to Italian agriculture.

Italy was 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer than usual last year, the climate institute said, making 2017 the fourth warmest year on record since 1800. 

The hottest years of the past two centuries have all come since 2000, with average temperatures reaching an all-time high in 2015.

A park near Rome, July 2017. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP