China, Europe, US drought: Is 2022 the driest year recorded?

Europe and parts of China have experienced extreme temperatures this summer, dry conditions in Africa have put millions at risk of starvation, and the American West continues to see a persistent lack of rainfall.

Do scientists say warmer and drier seasons are likely to become the norm but have these past few months been the driest on record?

How dry is the earth?

One measure of drought conditions used by scientists is based on the level of moisture in the soil as measured by satellite imagery.

We have compared these dry conditions over the past three months to average conditions since the beginning of this century, to build up a picture of how extreme recent weather patterns have been.

This data is based on both soil conditions and temperature data to create what is known as a soil moisture anomaly map.

We can see that most of Europe has experienced much drier weather this summer than the average for the period 2001 to 2016.

Elsewhere, the west of China has been very dry, with many areas experiencing extreme drought. Parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the US are also experiencing critically dry conditions.

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