Europe’s dry autumn soils

This post is for ISOCS Junior Primary Class, which is investigating Water.  This year's unit will be different from last year's of course - different teacher, different children, and different weather.  There just isn't as much water around this year as there was last year.

I saw this post this morning from the European Space Agency, highlighting the lack of rain fall all across Europe this summer.
"7 December 2011
Dry soil resulting from Europe’s exceptionally warm and dry autumn is being monitored by ESA’s SMOS water mission. The images here show the stark comparison between soil moisture in November 2010 and November 2011.
Like the most of the year, this autumn has been particularly dry. In the Netherlands, for example, just 9 mm of rain fell in November, compared to the average of 82 mm. According to the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI, November was the driest since records began in 1906.
Prolonged dry weather in Germany is not only disrupting shipping in the Rhine and Elbe rivers, but has also recently sparked a forest fire in Bavaria.
The UK Environment Agency says that even if England experiences average rainfall over winter and spring, parts of the country are unlikely to see a full recovery from drought conditions in 2012...While these maps offer an interesting snapshot, the information is important for a better understanding of the water cycle and, in particular, the exchange processes between Earth’s surface and the atmosphere." Click here to read the whole story.  

I explored a little further for more about water, water levels, weather in Switzerland, and found these news stories (I'm focusing on Switzerland here, because that is where our Junior Primary Class is doing its first-hand research):
In April, there was already concern about the low levels of Swiss lakes:
"According to a report by the Swiss Federal Environment Office, the levels of the lakes in Biel, Murten and Neuchâtel are far lower than they should be for April. Lake Biel, for example, is about 40 centimetres shallower than normal, and ten centimetres lower than it was at its previous all-time low for an April 3rd, which was recorded in 1993." (link)

After the summer, the lack of water continues to be news:
"The extraordinary autumn dry spell is having a significant impact on transport, power generation, tourism and aquatic life in Switzerland.
"It’s not just the autumn, the beginning of the year was also historically dry, leading to a dramatic roll-on effect.

"Figures compiled by the national weather service MeteoSwiss show precipitation levels in western Switzerland and the Rhone valley for 2011 so far (January 1 to November 19) are the lowest since records began in 1864." (link)