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The number and intensity of droughts are increasing in parts of Central Europe, not due to a decrease in precipitation, but due to an increase in evaporation under higher temperatures.

In contrast to global climate model projections the intensity of summer rainfall may increase. This is important for fresh water supply and, for instance, with respect to flash floods.

For the Alps, the main trigger of debris flows is high intensity, short duration rainfall. Under future climate change, it is likely that increases in extreme rainfall will alter debris flow frequency

Numerous concepts have been developed to mitigate the heat load in urban areas, such as customizing urban vegetation for shading and evaporative cooling, introducing open water

In the famous Austrian ski resort Lech this year’s ski season had a warm start. Could this warm start be a sign of things to come?

The impact of climate change between now and 2100 on timber production and protection against landslides and avalanche release, has been evaluated for the Province of Vorarlberg in Austria

Global warming affects precipitation volumes in the Alps, the contribution of rain and snow to these volumes, and the timing of snowmelt. An overall decrease in snow cover

Climate change is considered a large threat to especially montane species. These species often inhabit narrow elevational ranges

There is growing evidence that the rate of warming is amplified with elevation, such that high-mountain environments experience more rapid changes in temperature

For Norway spruce in the Northern Limestone Alps (Germany and Austria), neither growth suppression at the lower elevation sites nor growth increase at higher elevation sites was observed

In the past decade, winter consequences and flood events accounted for 96% of the total rail and road networks costs in the Alps, 92% in mid-Europe and 91% across EUR29.

On the Rhine–Main–Danube corridor no decrease in the performance of inland waterway transport due to extreme weather events is expected till 2050.

In the Alps, the overall frequency of debris flows may decrease in absolute terms, but the magnitude of events may increase.

Strong reduction of snow cover in the Alps is expected to have major impacts on winter tourism. Many ski-regions have mean elevations below 2,000 m

Alpine countries suffered from economic losses of € 57 billion caused by natural hazards—only in the period from 1982 to 2005. The extensive flood in the Alpine region in August 2005

So far, forest fires do not constitute a significant hazard in the central and northern parts of the Alps, while on the southern side they are more common

Projections of glacier mass balance in 2100 have been made for five Austrian glaciers; these projections have been generated from

One-third of the controlled landfill sites and roughly 30 % of the uncontrolled landfills were identified as highly endangered by floods ...

The impact of climate change on hydropower production in the Swiss Alps during the 21st century has been assessed by combining climate projections ...

The impact of hydrological changes on navigation conditions has been studied for the Rhine-Main-Danube corridor, one of the most important waterways in Europe ...

Discharge is projected to increases during winter and decrease during summer months. The duration of low-flow situations becomes longer ...

Climate change will substantially affect the growth of spruce and beech, but not of oak, in Central Europe ...

Demographic changes will have a higher impact on skiing tourism than climate change in the first half of the twenty-first century ...

River runoff was simulated for the Lech basin, located in the Northern Limestone Alps for present (1971–2000) and future (2071–2100) climate conditions ...

The extremes of possible climate-change-driven habitat range size reductions are commonly based on two assumptions ...

Projected changes in climatic conditions for the Czech Republic and the northern parts of Austria show that by 2020 ...

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I recommend

National plans/strategies for Austria

  • Sixth National Communication of the Austrian Federal Government under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (2014). Download.

Reports/papers that focus on important Austrian topics

  • Avalanches and Landslides: Gruber et al. (2004). Permafrost thaw and destabilization of Alpine rock walls in the hot summer of 2003. Download.
  • Tourism: Agrawala (2007). Climate Change in the European Alps. Adapting winter tourism and natural hazards management.

Reports/papers that present a sound overview for Europe

  • Eisenreich (2005). Climate change and the European water dimension. A report to the European water directors.
  • European Environment Agency (2005). Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Europe. Download.
  • European Environment Agency, JRC and WHO (2008). Impact of Europe’s changing climate – 2008 indicator-based assessment. Download.

Reports/papers that focus on specific topics, relevant for all of Europe

  • Agriculture: Rounsevell et al. (2005). Future scenarios of European agricultural land use II. Projecting changes in cropland and grassland. Download.
  • Agriculture: Fischer et al. (2005). Socio-economic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080. Download.
  • Biodiversity: Thuiller et al. (2005). Climate change threats to plant diversity in Europe. Download.
  • Coastal erosion: Salman et al. (2004). Living with coastal erosion in Europe: sediment and space for sustainability. Download.
  • Droughts: Blenkinsop and Fowler (2007). Changes in European drought characteristics projected by the PRUDENCE regional climate models. Download.
  • Droughts: European Environment Agency (2009). Water resources across Europe – confronting water scarcity and drought. Download.
  • Forestry: Seppälä et al. (2009). Adaptation of forests and people to climate change. A global assessment report. Download.
  • Health: Kosatsky (2005). The 2003 European heat waves. Download.
  • Health: WHO (2008). Protecting health in Europe from climate change. Download.
  • Insurance and Business: Mills et al. (2005). Availability and affordability of insurance under climate change. A growing challenge for the U.S. Download.
  • Security and Crisis management: German Advisory Council on Global Change (2007). World in transition: Climate change as a security risk. Summary for policy-makers. Download.
  • Storms: Gardiner et al. (2010). Destructive storms in European forests: Past and forthcoming impacts. Download.
  • Storms: Pinto et al. (2007). Changing European storm loss potentials under modified climate conditions according to ensemble simulations of the ECHAM5/MPI-OM1 GCM. Download.
  • Tourism: Deutsche Bank Research (2008). Climate change and tourism: Where will the journey lead? Download.

EU funded Research Projects

Agriculture

 

Avalanches and landslides

Biodiversity

Climate change scenarios

Climate change impacts and vulnerabilities

Cultural-historical heritage

Droughts and water scarcety

Flash Floods

Floods

Fresh water resources

Health

Infrastructure

Insurance and Business

Mitigation / adaptation integrated policy

Mitigation / adaptation options and costs

Security and Crisis management

Tourism

Transport, Infrastructure and Building

Urban areas

Health Austria

See also the page on the United Kingdom

Vulnerabilities

Floods

Floods are the most common natural disaster in Europe. The adverse human health consequences of flooding are complex and far-reaching: these include drowning, injuries, and an increased incidence of common mental disorders. Anxiety and depression may last for months and possibly even years after the flood event and so the true health burden is rarely appreciated (1).

Effects of floods on communicable diseases appear relatively infrequent in Europe. The vulnerability of a person or group is defined in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard. Determining vulnerability is a major challenge. Vulnerable groups within communities to the health impacts of flooding are the elderly, disabled, children, women, ethnic minorities, and those on low incomes (1).

Tick-borne encephalitis

Austria is among the most strongly affected countries in Central Europe, but the annual number of cases has strongly declined due to vaccination. In Austria, the high vaccination coverage (more than 80% of the total population has received at least one TBE vaccination) has led to a substantial decline in the number of annual cases. The incidence in the unvaccinated population, however, remained constant at ca 6 per 100,000, suggesting no major changes in the countrywide overall risk of human exposure to TBE virus-infected ticks (18).

Adaptation strategies

Heatwaves

The outcomes from the two European heat waves of 2003 and 2006 have been summarized by the IPCC (2) and are summarized below. They include public health approaches to reducing exposure, assessing heat mortality, communication and education, and adapting the urban infrastructure.


1. Public health approaches to reducing exposure

A common public health approach to reducing exposure is the Heat Warning System (HWS) or Heat Action Response System. The four components of the latter include an alert protocol, community response plan, communication plan, and evaluation plan (3). The HWS is represented by the multiple dimensions of the EuroHeat plan, such as a lead agency to coordinate the alert, an alert system, an information outreach plan, long-term infrastructural planning, and preparedness actions for the health care system (4).

The European Network of Meteorological Services has created Meteoalarm as a way to coordinate warnings and to differentiate them across regions (5). There are a range of approaches used to trigger alerts and a range of response measures implemented once an alert has been triggered. In some cases, departments of emergency management lead the endeavor, while in others public health-related agencies are most responsible (6).

2. Assessing heat mortality

Assessing excess mortality is the most widely used means of assessing the health impact of heat-related extreme events.

3. Communication and education

One particularly difficult aspect of heat preparedness is communicating risk. In many locations populations are unaware of their risk and heat wave warning systems go largely unheeded (7). Some evidence has even shown that top-down educational messages do not result in appropriate resultant actions (8).

More generally, research shows that communication about heat preparedness centered on engaging with communities results in increased awareness compared with top-down messages (9).

4. Adapting the urban infrastructure

Several types of infrastructural measures can be taken to prevent negative outcomes of heat-related extreme events. Models suggest that significant reductions in heat-related illness would result from land use modifications that increase albedo, proportion of vegetative cover, thermal conductivity, and emissivity in urban areas (10). Reducing energy consumption in buildings can improve resilience, since localized systems are less dependent on vulnerable energy infrastructure. In addition, by better insulating residential dwellings, people would suffer less effect from heat hazards. Financial incentives have been tested in some countries as a means to increase energy efficiency by supporting those who are insulating their homes. Urban greening can also reduce temperatures, protecting local populations and reducing energy demands (11).

Numerous concepts have been developed to mitigate the heat load in urban areas, such as customizing urban vegetation for shading and evaporative cooling (12), introducing open water surfaces (13), planning of built structures that support ventilation by choosing an appropriate geometry and size of buildings and street areas (14), and applying suitable materials and colours for buildings to reduce the heat storage and the absorption of solar radiation (15). Increase in vegetation and water surfaces, known as green and blue infrastructure, is of particular interest due to their multiple functionality and benefits for the urban environment, such as increasing urban biodiversity and improving air quality in case of urban vegetation (16).

The cooling potential of the blue and green infrastructure to reduce the urban heat island effect has been assessed for Vienna, the capital of Austria (17). In Vienna, a warming trend has been observed between 1961 and 2010. A model simulation for Vienna with green infrastructure shows that a substantial reduction in temperature is achieved only by incorporating an extensive amount of vegetation. Heat load mitigation measures should be applied extensively in order to reach substantial reduction in urban heat load on a city scale. With the application of several heat load mitigation measures such as decrease in building density by 10% and pavement by 20%, enlargement in green and water spaces by 20%, it is possible to achieve a substantial cooling effect. A relatively small change in infrastructure may reduce the annual number of summer days with a maximum temperature ≥ 25°C by 10 or more. Temperature reduction due to implementation of green and blue infrastructure in urban areas depends on multiple factors: terrain, prevailing wind direction and wind conditions, neighbouring areas and the size of the applied measures. By concentrating the parks in the city centre, the cooling effect could be amplified as compared to locating parks in the low-density residential areas in the outer districts of the city (17). 

Tick-borne encephalitis

The best way to protect against TBE is vaccination. Other ways to protect against TBE is preventing tick bites, by avoiding tick risk areas, being informed about how to remove ticks and recognize early symptoms, using insect repellent on skin and clothing when in risk areas, and wearing protective clothing with long sleeves, and long trousers tucked into socks or boots (19). 

References

The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Austria.

  1. Hajat et al. (2003)
  2. IPCC (2012)
  3. Health Canada (2010), in: IPCC (2012)
  4. WHO (2007), in: IPCC (2012)
  5. Bartzokas et al. (2010), in: IPCC (2012)
  6. McCormick (2010b), in: IPCC (2012)
  7. Luber and McGeehin (2008), in: IPCC (2012)
  8. Semenza et al. (2008)), in: IPCC (2012)
  9. Smoyer-Tomic and Rainham (2001), in: IPCC (2012)
  10. Yip et al. (2008); Silva et al. (2010), both in: IPCC (2012)
  11. Akbari et al. (2001), in: IPCC (2012)
  12. Spronken-Smith and Oke (1998); Solecki et al. (2005); Gill et al. (2007); Memon et al. (2008); Bowler et al. (2010); Oliveira et al. (2011); Fallmann et al. (2014), all in: Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016)
  13. Hathway and Sharples (2012); Theeuwes et al. (2013), both in: Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016)
  14. Ali-Toudert and Mayer (2007a, b); Middel et al. (2014), both in: Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016)
  15. Hamdi and Schayes (2008); Krayenhoff and Voogt (2010); Santamouris et al. (2012), all in: Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016)
  16. Akbari et al. (2001), in: Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016)
  17. Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016)
  18. Heinz et al. (2015)
  19. WHO (2016)
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