Water levels have dropped in major rivers across Europe as the region suffers under a historic drought. In those dry riverbeds, centuries-old warning messages have emerged, locals report.
The “horrifying” boulders are known as “Hungersteine,” or “Hunger Stones,” local German reporter Olaf Koens said in an Aug. 11 tweet.
Huiveringwekkend. Door de droogte in Europese rivieren komen er Hungersteine bovendrijven. Macabere waarschuwingen van onze 15e eeuwse voorouders over hongersnood.
— Olaf Koens (@obk) August 11, 2022
One of these stones is embedded in the Elbe River, which runs from the mountains of Czechia through Germany to the North Sea.
The stone, dating back to a drought in 1616, is once again visible in the dry riverbed, Hernández-Morales said. The warning reads, “Wenn du mich seehst, dann weine” – “If you see me, weep.”
3. The Elbe River’s hunger stones, carved centuries ago to mark the low-water levels that were recorded on years when crops failed and famine occurred. This one, dating back to 1616, reads “If you see me, weep.” pic.twitter.com/a7EfJjskdE
— Aitor Hernández-Morales (@aitorehm) August 12, 2022
“Hunger stones” like this one were used as “hydrological landmarks” across central Europe, NPR reported when the stones last surfaced during a 2018 drought.
These stones are “chiselled with the years of hardship and the initials of authors lost to history,” a team of Czech researchers wrote in a 2013 study.
“The basic inscriptions warn of the consequences of drought. It expressed that drought had brought a bad harvest, lack of food, high prices and hunger for poor people.”
The recent droughts in Europe once again made visible the “Hunger Stones” in some Czech and German rivers. These stones were used to mark desperately low river levels that would forecast famines.
This one, in the Elbe river, is from 1616 and says: “If you see me, cry” pic.twitter.com/uJTapWXN5y
— Shoko Asahara Appreciation Consortium ?? (@Citizen09372364) August 11, 2022
The stones commemorate historic droughts
Europe’s current drought is certainly historic. Scientists at the European Drought Observatory said that the drought is on track to be the worst one in 500 years.
The XIV century Mesta Bridge in Villarta de los Montes (Extremadura, Spain), a nice example of Mudéjar-Gothic civil engineering. Since 1956 it’s been covered by the waters of the Cijara Reservoir, but the drought has brought it back to light.
This medieval bridge was flooded in the fifties to create the Cijara reservoir in central Spain. Now it’s exposed again as a drought parches Spain’s arid regions https://t.co/S3zsZwOqve pic.twitter.com/BwybpYwHUr
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 11, 2022
According to the drought observatory, 47% of Europe is in drought warning conditions, meaning the soil has a moisture deficit. Another 17% is on alert, meaning the vegetation in the area is being affected by the dry conditions.
Major rivers in Germany, Italy, and England – the Rhine, Po, and Thames, respectively – are drying out. Rivers are “too dry, too low, and too warm,” which has consequences on wildlife, the economy and people.
The remains of the Aquis Querquennis Roman castrum in Galicia, which is normally covered by the waters of the Lima River and the Concha reservoir. It dates back to the III century and was on the Via Nova.
A view of the Roman camp Aquis Querquennis, located on the banks of the Limia River in Galicia, Spain. The camp is usually under water but can now be seen because of the low water levels. pic.twitter.com/LDP0X1sc9g
— BBC Weather (@bbcweather) August 10, 2022
Water levels in the Rhine River are about half of their usual depth for this time of the year, with some sections having even lower water levels. This has made shipping on the river five times more expensive because cargo ships must carry less weight to make sure they do not run aground.
In Italy, the prime minister said that the country is experiencing, “the most serious water crisis of the last 70 years.” This 450 kilo, World War II-era bomb was discovered in Italy’s dried up Po River.
The water level in Italy’s drought-stricken Po River is so low that even a WWII-era bomb reemerged.
It was no easy task to remove the 450-kilogram bomb. pic.twitter.com/xdEYKaIfoi
— DW News (@dwnews) August 12, 2022
According to the General Directorate of Water Management (OVF), the water level in Lake Velence, a popular touristic lake near Budapest, is at its lowest level ever recorded.
The drought comes after months of high temperatures and little rainfall. Human-induced climate change has also contributed to the “intensity, frequency and duration of heat events” and amplified droughts.
According to the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, “Droughts have become our summer reality,” he tweeted.
Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and France are all struggling under the drought. Conditions aren’t expected to improve any time soon, with the European Drought Observatory explaining that, they have estimated a worsening of the situation in most of Europe. [Copernicus, SacBee]
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