The silent sky above the rumbling lands
the historical summer drought on the Hungarian Great Plain
People bathing in the lowered water level lake 'Balaton' during a summer heatwave. During heatwaves, people flee the cities for the waterfront.
But the water level of Lake Balaton (Hungary's largest natural lake, covering 592 square km) has also been steadily falling. In May, the average water level was around 105 cm. By the end of August it had dropped to 78 cm.
Siófok, Balaton-lake, Hungary
And in the summer of this year, several heat waves hit the region and Hungary. Fully parched grasslands, forests and scrublands increase the potential for fires. The area burnt in Hungary has increased tenfold compared to last year, with 54% of fires affected agriculture.
Persistent heat waves are extremely stressful for people living in urban areas, especially the elderly, young children and people with cardiovascular diseases, causing extreme stress on the human body. Researchers say that unless we act now, these deadly climatic conditions could become the norm by the end of the century and according to the average climate scenarios (REMO-ECHAM5), two thirds area of Hungary will become semi-desert between 2050 and 2100.
Attila, a local fisherman, poses for a portrait on the parched lakeside.
I used to swim here last year, says Attila, a local fisherman who can´t remember the lake ever being so low.
Velence, Velencei Lake, Hungary
The former fishing pier and the "Fairy of the lake" fishing boat in the dry lake bed. By mid-summer, the persistent drought had also caused problems in settlements around Budapest. Water storages and lakes either dried up or their water levels dropped drastically. For short periods of time, the water supply to the population was also disrupted.
The "Ugly lake", Pécel, Budapest, Hungary
Deep water marker buoy on dry. Lake Velencei is the second largest natural lake in Hungary. The lake´s water level has been steadily falling, ranging from 56 to 67 centimetres on 14 August.
Velence, Velencei Lake, Hungary
In the Great Plain, the dry soil is covered with approximately 30 centimetres of sand and dust. A sandstorm is stirred up by the wind.
Pista, standing in his rye field, shows how much height rye should grow. The wheat he sowed in the spring was gone by the wind in a sandstorm.
As a result of the drought in recent years, many people in the region have given up farming.
'My horses mean everything to me. If I can no longer keep them, my life will become meaningless. I'll save the last bullet for myself', said Laszlo, a local keeper.
István, a local farmer, looks at the dry irrigation canal bed.
In the background, a cornfield burnt out by drought.
Near to Izsák, Bács-Kiskun County.
As a result of the record drought, drought damage is estimated at over 1 million hectares. This is almost a third of the total arable land under cultivation. Drought has been a problem mainly in the Great Plain region.
Istvan said: 'The irrigation canals are completely dry. But even if there is any rain, the water flows from the canals into the Tisza or the Danube. If we don´t close the sluices, the water will flow out of the country. So what will we do next year?'
Dust cloud from the soil. A deep layer of dust disturbed during force-harvesting.
Most farmers are forced to put their ruined crops into the ground because the summer drought.
The last time it rained was seven months ago. But the winter was also dry. This year´s wheat harvest is below average, and even though the wheat is only knee-high, we have to harvest it now because the grains have sprouted. Our damage is at least 10 million HUF. I do not know what we will sow in the autumn, says Gábor.
When we come out into our fields, we can hear the earth roaring as it cracks.
The parched soil is so hard that if it doesn't rain by the time we have to plough, the plough will break, says Gábor a local farmer.
This year's poor harvests and a drop in imports due to the war have led to a steady rise in feed prices. In May the price of a bale of hay was approximately 8.000 HUF, by the end of August it had risen to approximately 30.000 HUF. Due to the increasingly difficult conditions, it is estimated that the dairy herd and the number of dairy farms may have fallen by 2-3% in the past year.
The keepers who can still do so are feeding with the winter fodder.
Uncle Feri, sheep farmer.
Neither horses nor cows, sheeps can find food on the burnt grassland. The keepers who can still do so are feeding them with the winter fodder. This year's poor harvest affected the continuing rise in feed prices. And this is affordable for few.
What will I do without my sheep? It's part of my everyday life, I don't know how to do anything else.
Empty corral, closed farm.
Near to Jászszentlászló, Hungary
Márti, cow keeper posing leaning against their empty corral.
'We ran a dairy farm with forty cows. We´ve liquidated the herd because we can't afford to pay four times the price of feed. In May a bale of hay was eight thousand forints, now it is thirty thousand forints. We will liquidate the whole farm, we don't want to go bankrupt' says Márti.
A tired horse rests on the sunburnt grass. Neither horses nor cows, sheeps can find food on the burnt grassland.
Orgoványi volunteer firefighters pose for the photo before a fire drill.
Fully parched grasslands, forests and scrublands increase the potential danger for fires. In Hungary, the number of burnt areas increased tenfold compared to last year and the number of agricultural fires increased by 50%.
Wood burnt out in a forest fire. The cause of the fire is thought to have been a piece of glass, which acted as a magnifying lens to focus the heat onto the dry bushes.
Near to Tiszainoka, Hungary
Imre posing leans against the wall of a farmhouse burnt down in a forest fire
One person died in the fire and several hectares of forest and 3-4 nearby farms were burnt.
One hundred and fourteen firefighters from seventeen municipalities extinguished the fire, which was made more difficult by the water shortage in the area.
Near to Izsák, Hungary
Ákos looks at the ten hectares of forest that burned down on 13 July.
The flames were only contained 2 kilometres from Ákos' farm.
Near to Izsák, Hungary
Aunt Margit tries to survive the urban heatwave in her darkened room.
Older people are particularly at risk from prolonged heat stress.
Near to Kecskemét, Hungary
Persistent heat waves are also a problem in cities. In Szolnok, the water level of the Tisza reached record lows. Causing several sandbanks to rise and for a short period occur the possibility of water restrictions.
Tisza-river, Szolnok, Hungary
Due to the low water level of the Danube, islands have also emerged from the water at the foot of the bridges.
Danube, Budapest, Hungary
'Angel' Ildikó cover her head with a shadener.
Ildikó lives in the forest camp on the outskirts of the city and earns her living by selling newspapers in the city, even during heat waves. She is one of those people who are exposed to health risks due to the extreme heat in cities.
Extreme heatwaves in Europe caused 16% more deaths than average in the European Union in July of 2022, according to Eurostat data.
District XIV, Downtown, Budapest, Hungary