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LIGHTNING

What caused Germany’s deadly storm?

Severe storms have caught parts of western Germany off guard, killing six people and causing millions of euros worth of damage as well as travel delays. But what is causing the unpredictable weather?

What caused Germany's deadly storm?
An uprooted chestnut tree in Düsseldorf on Monday. Photo: DPA

The mingling of hot air from southern Germany and air form the north, which was 10C cooler, created conditions that resulted in the violent storms which devastated parts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Thomas Ruppert of the German Weather Service (DWD) said on Tuesday that the hot southern air brought high temperatures of 37 degrees. The country baked over the holiday weekend in record temperatures.

That hot air then met with cool northern air which had blown in over from the English Channel. Ruppert said normally nature tries to mediate the tension between these two temperature extremes but "eventually it snaps".

Once the hot and humid air had risen, thunderstorms formed and created strong gusts of wind. Wind speeds of over 140 km/h were measured, which, according to Rupert, is quite rare.

According to the DWD, an average of 20-40 thunderstorms hit Germany in a given place each year, typically in the summer. They usually bring heavy rains and occasional hale.

Around two million lightning flashes also occur in the country annually. However, only 200,000 to 400,000 of these touch the ground, according to the DWD. The majority travel from cloud to cloud.

SEE ALSO: Violent storms kill six in western Germany

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WEATHER

Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

A stranded cargo ship caused traffic to be halted Wednesday at the Rhine river in western Germany after suffering a technical fault, authorities said, at a time when water transport was already ailing from a drought.

Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

The vessel is stuck at St. Goar and Oberwesel, in between the cities of Mainz and Koblenz, water police said, adding that they were expecting to clear the stricken ship within the day.

The machine damage came as water levels in the Rhine had dropped to critical points at several locations, including at nearby Kaub — a known bottleneck for shipping where the river runs narrow and shallow.

The gauge at Kaub stood at 34 cm (13 inches) on Wednesday, well below the 40-cm reference point.

While vessels are still able to navigate at low water levels, they are forced to reduce their loads to avoid the risk of running aground.

About four percent of freight is transported on waterways in Germany, including on the Rhine, which originates in Switzerland and runs through several countries including France and Germany before flowing into the sea in the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: How the Rhine’s low water levels are impacting Germany

Transport on the Rhine has gained significance in recent months because among cargo moved on the river is coal, now all the more necessary as Germany seeks to wean itself off Russian gas.

Germany’s biggest companies have already warned that major disruptions to river traffic could deal another blow to an economy already beset by logistical difficulties.

The 2018 drought, which saw the benchmark depth of the Rhine in Kaub drop to 25 cm in October, shrank German GDP by 0.2 percent that year, according to Deutsche Bank Research.

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