A painful lack of rain and persistent heat waves are drying up rivers in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many are shrinking in length and width. It is a common sight to see out over the water along the banks of the river. Some rivers are so desolate that they are almost impassable.
The human-caused climate crisis is fueling extreme weather around the world, affecting not only rivers, but the people who depend on them. Most of the people on the planet depend on rivers in one way or another, whether for drinking water, for irrigating food, for energy or for transporting goods.
See how six of them look from space.
The Rhine begins in the Swiss Alps, flows through Germany and the Netherlands and then flows into the North Sea. It’s an important channel for European shipping, but right now, it’s a nightmare to navigate.
Parts of the river bed are raised above the water’s surface, meaning that ships that try to cross it must weave around a series of obstacles, slowing the entire process.
A major problem is that millions of people depend on Po for their livelihood, mostly through agriculture. About 30% of Italy’s food is produced with Po, and some of the country’s most famous exports, such as Parmesan cheese, are made here.
The Loire in France maintains a valley of vineyards that produce some of the world’s most famous wines. The river stretches for about 600 miles and is considered the last wild river in France, supporting a biodiverse ecosystem throughout the valley, most of which is protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Parts of the river are already quite shallow, but its level and flow can change rapidly with the seasons and as the ice melts at its source. Some sections have become so dry due to lack of rain and severe heat that people can cross on foot.
It is not in dire condition like some other rivers in Europe, but countries like Hungary are so dependent on the Danube for tourism, the effects are already being felt. Some cruise ships have been unable to cross parts of the river to reach Hungary. Those still running could not stop on their normal routes as many stations had to be closed due to falling water levels along the river. According to the country’s tourism board, an average 1,600-ton vessel can now navigate the only Hungarian stretch without any cargo.
CNN’s Julia Buckley, Laura Hay, Angela Fritz and Rachel Ramirez, as well as journalist Barbie Nadeau, contributed to this report.