Earlier it was flooding that threatened the canals of Venice. But this year, they are drying up due to an unprecedented spell of dry winter weather and scarce snowfall in the Alpine mountains. Images being shared on social media show the canals reduced to muddy pits.
Scientists and environmental groups such as Legambiente have sounded the alarm about a "never-ending" severe drought due to which Italian rivers and lakes are suffering from severe lack of water.
Legambiente noted in a statement that the Po, Italy's longest river that flows from the northwest Alps to the Adriatic, has 61 percent less water than usual at this time of year. Meanwhile, Northern Italy's Lake Garda has experienced record-low water levels, so much so that it is now possible to walk across an open path to the tiny island of San Biagio.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Venice has 118 tiny islands which are linked by canals and bridges. The iconic Grand Canal is the main route through this historic city, which is often most at risk from rising sea levels.
A high pressure system, a full moon, sea currents, and the lack of rain are all being cited as contributing reasons to the problems in Venice.
This comes after unprecedented warm weather across Europe thawed the snow on ski slopes and forced ski resorts to close this winter. French resorts near Mont-Blanc had to cancel the World Cup telemark ski race. Some ski destination had to resort to artificial snow. Since the majority of the snow had melted from the slopes, many ski resorts in France and Switzerland announced that they would be closed. Among the countries affected by the winter heatwave were Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland which had their warmest January days on record, with temperatures climbing to 21 degrees Celsius.