A viral photo of the dry Loire river in France has been widely shared online amid recent heatwaves and drought.
The image shows a branch of the river near a road bridge, where the riverbed is almost entirely exposed.
Some online users falsely claimed that the river has entirely run dry for the first time in more than 2,000 years, or that the Loire has fallen to a record low flow rate.
The image is lacking context and this part of the river has previously dried up during hot summer weather.
The photo was captured by Franck Dubray for the local newspaper Ouest France, and it shows the Loire riverbed dry near Loireauxence, between Angers and Nantes.
Some parts of the river are flowing at the lowest rate since dams were installed in the 1980s, but the Loire remains open to traffic.
The photo taken by Dubray shows a northern tributary of the river that has previously been exposed in summer, including in 2021.
Satellite photos on Google also show that parts of the riverbed and sank banks of this tributary often appear exposed and are different from the south tributary even without extreme drought conditions.
Even if the river is drier than usual this year, the Loire river is designed to continue flowing — in the event of the drought — along its narrower tributary.
Parts of the river — such as the northern tributary at Loireauxence — effectively become a “dead arm” and can be crossed on foot.
French engineer and climate expert Thibault Laconde also shared images of the northern Loire tributary dry at Loireauxence in May 2011 and August 2009.
Laconde – like other experts– has stressed that France is facing severe drought and that it is worrying that the Loire river could soon be at its lowest in some areas since 1976.
“Since 1976, the Loire has only fallen below 100m³/s at Montjean three times; 1991, 2019 and 2022,” he wrote on Twitter. “More than half of French people have never seen the Loire at such a low level.”
“We are facing a serious drought … [but] the river is not dry. By showing a dead arm, these photos are at least a dramatisation of the situation.”
Ouest-France also reported that the Loire has not yet fallen to its historic low flow rate of 1949.
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