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Another year of severe drought in Italy looks increasingly likely after a winter of little snowfall, exposing a walkway in Lake Garda while Venice battles dry canals.

The Alps have received less than half their normal amount of snowfall, while water levels on Lake Garda in northern Italy have fallen to record lows, making it possible to walk to the lake’s small island of San Biagio via an exposed pathway.

The water shortages has fears of diminished crop harvests, drinking water supplies and hydropower.

Meanwhile in Venice on the northeast coast, a city usually more concerned with flooding, unusually low tides are making it impossible for gondolas, water taxis and ambulances to navigate some of the famous canals.

The problems in Venice are being blamed not just on a lack of rain, but also a high pressure system, a full moon and sea currents.

The dry winter follows an exceptional drought last year that caused Italy to declare a state of emergency for critical agricultural areas surrounding the Po river.

Olive trees withered and half the water evaporated in some hydropower reservoirs.

While parts of Italy have since recovered, patches in the north are still in drought, suffering from little rain and dry soils, according to the European Drought Observatory.

The Po, Italy’s longest river which runs from the Alps in the northwest to the Adriatic, has just a third of the water than is normal for this time of year, the Legambiente environmental group said on Monday.

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Much of the northern hemisphere suffered an extreme drought in 2021

An anticyclone has been dominating the weather in western Europe for the last 15 days, bringing mild temperatures more normally seen in late spring.

But forecasters expect much-needed rain and snow in the Alps in the coming days.

Climate breakdown is making drought in the Mediterranean more severe and more likely, although it is not to blame for all droughts globally, according to climate scientists at the World Weather Attribution group.

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