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So far, 2014 is Europe’s hottest year on record. Research shows that anthropogenic climate change has made Europe’s warm year of 2014 at least 500 times more likely.

Future trends in storm surge level changes along the European coastline show an increase for Northern Europe and small or no changes for Southern Europe.

Very hot summers will become the ‘new normal’ much faster than most people expect. A recent study describes a grim picture for the world’s population regarding high summer temperatures.

Novel ways to enhance society’s resilience to natural disasters such as floods, heat waves or wildfires, in a newly published book of the EU-funded research project ENHANCE.

Trends of increasing numbers of flash floods in, for instance, Spain agree with the IPCC hypothesis about the increase in both torrential events and people’s vulnerability and exposure to floods.

Whether a river’s catchment in winter is dominated by rainfall or snow determines the impact of climate change on its peak flows. The impact depends on how the ratio between rainfall and snow changes.

One of the benefits of climate change is the use of Arctic sea for trans-Arctic shipping routes. Less ice in summer creates a shortcut between Pacific and Atlantic ports.

There is no such thing as a European response to climate change. Regions with the same increase in temperature and precipitation will have different impacts of climate change.

Green water under a blue sky. Water in the canals of Delft (the Netherlands) turned green this summer, due to warm water and high nutrients input.

The impact of climate change will be felt especially in the cities during hot summers, due to the urban heat island effect. Several measures can be taken though to ‘beat the heat’.

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in combination make societies more resilient to climate-fragility risks. Yet, a link between them has been more or less absent over the last years

Adverse environmental impacts associated with climate change can trigger displacement of an increased number of people. If people do migrate, this will mostly be internally within individual countries

Climate change may act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world. But there is no evidence of a strong relationship between warming and armed conflict.

Europe is surrounded by some of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. Migratory pressure at the European Union's borders and political instability and conflicts could increase in the future.

The changing climate may turn large parts of Europe into a suitable home for malarial mosquitoes. But a large-scale malaria epidemic is highly unlikely. The health infrastructure is too good for that.

Disease-transmitting ticks are expanding over Europe, consistent with observed warming trends. There is no evidence, however, of any associated changes in the distribution of tick-borne diseases.

Based on a presentation by Birgit Georgi (European Environment Agency) at the 4th Nordic Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in Bergen, Norway, August 2016.

Presented by Erik Kolstad (Uni Research Climate & Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research) at the 4th Nordic Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in Bergen, Norway, August 2016.

Based on a presentation by Per Sanderud and a discussion with Hege Hisdal and Christina Beisland of NVE at the 4th Nordic Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in Bergen, Norway, August 2016.

More heat-related deaths in summer may not balance less cold-related deaths in winter. In fact, higher winter temperature volatility and an ageing population may increase the number of winter deaths.

Current wildfire risk calls for more than well-equipped fire fighting units. Investments are needed in plane and satellite monitoring of forests, early warning, and more resilience to fires.

The world relies on the available surface water resources for electricity generation. How will global warming affect the potential for hydropower and cooling water?

Wildfire risk in northern Europe is much less than in the south. In northern Europe, wildfires are rare: the percentage of forestland burnt annually is less than 0.05%, compared with 0.55% for Spain.

The frequency of droughts will increase in the next several decades. In addition, population will grow. Both impacts have been assessed. The conclusion: climate change plays the primary role.

The impacts of climate change on natural hazards cast their shadows in the increasing numbers of wildfires. The causal connection is hard to deny.

The increase in intensity of heat waves in combination with high tropospheric ozone concentrations represents the greatest direct risk that climate change poses to people’s health in Europe.

50% of the deaths as a result of the European summer heat wave of 2003 may be associated with ozone exposure rather than the heat itself, research has shown.

The prolongation and intensification of the thermal growing season offers several benefits for northern European forestry and agriculture. In southern Europe, negative impacts dominate.

Increasing the level of flood protection may be cost-effective, but is not sustainable in the long term. A higher level of flood protection results in the loss of flood memory.

Looking at the combination of extreme events, entire Europe could face a progressive increase in overall climate exposure, with a prominent spatial gradient towards southwestern regions

Increasing exposure to flooding is the main cause of the steeply rising trend in global river flood losses over the past decades.

Forest management can mitigate the effects of climate change. Climate and forest management interact and affect streamflow differentially.

The effect of climate change on extreme events extends back several decades. An example is the record- breaking hot summer of 1997/1998 in Australia.

A new field of science called “extreme event attribution” allows for answering the question: did climate change play a role in
this specific extreme event?

The battle against climate change will be a race against the clock. Engineers will have to fight on two fronts: towards a sustainable energy system and against projected impacts.

It is yet unclear how climate change may affect the number of severe storms on the Atlantic Ocean and in the European coastal zone.

Air pollution is a serious health concern in many parts of the world. Projections of air quality changes over Europe under climate change are highly uncertain, however.

Under a moderate scenario of climate change, by 2050 0.5 to 3.1 billion people are exposed to an increase in water scarcity solely due to climate change.

The heat wave in 2010 was likely the hottest summer in the last 500 years in eastern Europe. It was both due to natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change.

An interesting ‘trade-off’ is the effect of global warming on the number of heat-related and cold-related deaths. What will be the net effect of hotter summers and warmer winters?

Over the last years, climate-driven changes such as large-scale floods have increased the volume of water on land. This increase slowed down sea level rise.

Climate change will have an impact on river flood risk, but to what extent? One thing is clear: the impact is highly uncertain.

The impacts of a +2°C global warming on extreme floods and hydrological droughts have been assessed for Europe for 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 year events.

Maize and soybean are among the most important food crops worldwide. Global warming reduces growing season length and yields for both crops.

The earlier green-up of vegetation in Europe amplifies spring warming, especially the frequency and intensity of spring heat waves, according to a recent study.

At many places climate change both increases droughts and heavy rainfall. Too little and too much water are part of the same problem. They may be part of the same solution too

Urban centers worldwide are racing to bolster themselves and their residents against rising sea levels

Sea level rise over the next decades is not an immediate, catastrophic threat to many marshes: marshes will survive in place under relatively fast rates of sea level rise

The global area of dryland is increasing rapidly. This was shown from data over the period 1948–2005, and seems to proceed towards the end of this century.

Wind energy potential more likely than not will increase over Northern and Central Europe. For Southern Europe, a likely decrease of mean annual wind energy potential is projected.

Lake summer surface water temperatures are warming significantly, with a mean trend of 0.34°C per decade, across 235 globally distributed lakes.

Estimates of potential increase in annual burned areas in Europe under a high-end scenario of climate change show an increase of about 200% by 2090

The larger Mediterranean Basin will have warmer and dryer climate conditions at the end of this century. Desertification in the Mediterranean region

The results of a European-wide study show that forest management cannot keep pace with the projected change in species suitability under climate change.

Estimates based on a combination of climate and flooding models indicate that river floods affect some 216,000 people every year in Europe. The estimated annual damage for Europe is 5.3 B€.

Climatic conditions might become more favorable for tourism in the north of Europe and less so in the south. Climate model projections for 2100

Flood insurance differs widely in scope and form across Europe. There seems to be little appetite for harmonization of flood insurance arrangements across the EU

Drought and heat-induced tree mortality is accelerating in many forest biomes as a consequence of a warming climate, resulting in a threat to global forests unlike any in recorded history.

Recently, the American Meteorological Society published a large number of studies on extreme events in 2014, focused on the question whether these can be (partly) attributed to climate change.

Bumblebee species seem to fail to move to the north of Europe and North America in response to global warming whereas they lose habitats at the southern range

What measures may be effective in reducing the urban heat island effect and cool down cities during heat waves? A comparison of recent insights from scientific studies

Allergenic diseases caused by pollen may appear earlier in the year and may also increase. An example of the latter is the invasion of common ragweed (a native in North America) into Europe since the

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

Five large-scale homogeneous regions in Europe have been identified in terms of flood regimes, based on the longest available flow series from across Europe

Many impact studies assume that climate change results in changing daily minimum and maximum temperatures by the same amount and in the same direction. However, on local scales

Extreme heat waves have an impact on western European electricity supply due to the increased electricity demand for cooling and the power limitation of thermoelectric plants

In a warmer future climate, Western Europe will see larger impacts from severe Autumn storms. Not only their frequency will increase, but also their intensity and the area they affect.

How much sea level rise is to be expected at the upper limit of current IPCC scenarios? This question has been dealt with for northern Europe

In high-latitude regions of the Earth, temperatures have risen 0.6 °C per decade, twice as fast as the global average. The resulting thaw of frozen ground

According to satellite altimetry-based data anthropogenic global warming has resulted in global mean sea-level rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/year over the period 1994-2011

Specific individual extreme weather events cannot be attributed to climate change. It has been shown, however, that the overall probability of climate change having an effect on extreme events can be

With respect to high-frequency flood zones, including exposure to both coastal and river floods, in 2000 about 30% of the global urban land was located in these zones; by 2030, this will reach 40%.

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 Canadian cities, four major categories of mitigation strategies and measures have been identified: Greening measures: all measures that can increase

Human influence can account for almost 100% of the changes in future hydrological drought in areas such as Asia, Middle East and North-Africa (Mediterranean).

Climate change threatens one in six species (16%) globally if we follow our current, business-as-usual trajectory

The overall enhancement on summery tourist comfort in north-western European countries and the overall degradation in the Mediterranean could lead to

The impact of climate change on foodborne parasites is complicated and provides no easy answers.

European wine farms show considerable potential to improve their economic performance, and thereby ease their situation in a global change scenario.

future changes in wind power potential are weak or non-significant over a large part of Europe: changes in wind power potential will remain within ±15% and ±20% by mid and late century respectively.

Projected climate changes suggest increased drying, driven primarily by increases in evapotranspiration. This will likely have significant ramifications for globally important regions

The latest high-resolution future climate simulations for Europe (from the EURO-CORDEX program) refer to a horizontal resolution of 12.5 km. The first results address changes

Future climate change will affect recharge rates and, in turn, the depth of groundwater levels and the amount of available groundwater.

The adaptation potential of European agriculture in response to climate change has been assessed for a number of crops. It was shown that adaptation potential is high for maize

Global demand for food is expected to increase by at least 50% from 2010 to 2050 mainly as a result of population growth and a shift towards a more `westernized' diet

With 25% of the global wheat area and 29% of global wheat production, Europe is the largest producer of wheat. The increased occurrence and magnitude of adverse and extreme agroclimatic events

The impact of global warming on the cultural world heritage through sea level rise has been estimated for the next 2000 years.

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.

Railways are the losers of climate change thanks to their expensive—and therefore vulnerable—infrastructure and their complex vehicle routing system and high safety standards.

A recent analysis indicates that the planet has warmed most where scientists are watching least. The recent slowdown in warming seems to be half as big as previously thought.

Global yield impacts of climate change and adaptation have been evaluated by analysing a data set of more than 1,700 published simulations for three crops: wheat, rice and maize.

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

Current global glacier volume is projected to reduce by 29 - 41% over the period 2006–2100. Scandinavia may lose more than 75% of its current volume

Water scarcity and climate change are overall not found to have an important association with armed conflict, especially if compared to poverty and dysfunctional institutions.

Opportunities for integrating climate change into peacebuilding refer to socio-economic recovery, politics and governance, security and rule of law, and human rights.

Projected impacts indicate increased fish productivity at high latitudes and decreased productivity at low/mid latitudes

Climate change will affect future flow and thermal regimes of rivers. This will directly affect freshwater habitats and ecosystem health.

Risk management instruments in agriculture, such as crop insurance and disaster assistance programme, and especially how they are designed, will affect incentives to adapt.

Assuming protection against a 100-year flood event, EU annual river flood damage is estimated to increase from €5.5 billion now to €98 billion in 2100.

Precipitation on future days, where average daily temperature is below freezing, decreases in large parts of Europe in a future warmer climate.

The yield decreasing effect of climate change in Europe is projected to be compensated and partially superseded by higher atmospheric CO2 concentration and technology development.

For Europe, by the end of the century, irrigation water demand is projected to decrease for Eastern Europe under scenarios for moderate climate change.

In Europe, 1-day and 5-day precipitation events that occurred on average once in 5, 10 and 20 years in the 1950s and 1960s generally became more common during the period 1951–2010.

The average poleward shift in recorded incidences of crop pests and pathogens since 1960 is 2.2 ± 0.8 km/year for the Northern Hemisphere and 1.7 ± 1.7 km/year for the Southern Hemisphere.

Fire policy that focuses on suppression only delays the inevitable, promising more dangerous and destructive future forest fires.

There are perhaps five wheat and three maize growing regions likely to be both exposed to worse droughts and a reduced capacity to adapt.

The urban heat island effect has been quantified for all cities in 38 European countries. It was shown that this effect varies over the seasons.

21st century climate change increases global all-cause premature mortalities associated with PM2.5 by approximately 100,000 deaths and respiratory disease mortality

The effects and the relevance of gradual climate change on the probability of power outages and blackouts are difficult to quantify. It has been stated that by 2040 capacity reductions of 13–19 %

Climate change and extreme weather events represent a real physical threat to the oil and gas sector, particularly in low-lying coastal areas and areas exposed to extreme weather events.

Flood frequency increases in West and Northwest Europe, including the UK, Ireland, the Low Countries and most of France. In contrast, flood frequency decreases in many regions of

At the regional level, the impact of climate change was assessed for Europe combining indicators of climatic and non-climatic change ...

The expected value of European forest land is expected to decrease owing to the decline of economically valuable species in the absence of effective countermeasures ...

From the available scientific literature the impact of climate change on security is yet unclear ...

Problems with efficient dewatering following heavy rainfall events are not uncommon already today, e.g. because of urbanization beyond the system capacity ...

Windstorm losses are expected to reach unseen magnitudes, which for some countries (e.g. Germany) may exceed 200% of the strongest event in present day climate simulations ...

Substantial reductions in potential groundwater recharge are projected for the 21st century in southern Europe and increases in northern Europe ...

The economic impacts of climate change have been estimated for a global mean temperature rise of +2°C and +4°C for 27 European countries ...

Changes in dry and wet spell characteristics in Europe have been projected for 2021–2050 compared with 1961–1990 ...

During the 2001–2010 decade, 500-year-long records of highest air temperature were likely broken over 65% of Europe, including ...

The direct and indirect costs of sea level rise for Europe have been modelled for a range of sea level rise scenarios for the 2020s and 2080s. The results show ...

Climate change will impact thermoelectric power production in Europe through a combination of increased water temperatures and ...

From an assessment of the implications of climate change for future flood damage and people exposed by floods in Europe it was concluded ...

Climate change may have a net positive effect on the overall European potential for tourism ...

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Permafrost: European scale

Vulnerabilities

Frozen soils and permafrost currently hold about 1700 PgC, more than twice the carbon than the atmosphere, and thus represent a particularly large vulnerability to climate change (i.e., warming) (1).

It is virtually certain that the area of Northern Hemisphere permafrost will continue to decline over the first half of the 21st century in all climate change (RCP) scenarios (2). In the lower-end (RCP2.6) scenario, the permafrost area is projected to stabilize at a level approximately 20% below the 20th century area, and then begin a slight recovering trend. In the moderate (RCP4.5) scenario, the simulations that extend beyond 2100 show permafrost continuing to decline for at least another 250 years. In the higher-end (RCP8.5) scenario, the permafrost area is simulated to approach zero by the middle of the 22nd century in simulations that extend beyond 2100 (1).

Vulnerabilities - The permafrost carbon feedback

In high-latitude regions of the Earth, temperatures have risen 0.6 °C per decade, twice as fast as the global average (4). The resulting thaw of frozen ground exposes substantial quantities of organic carbon to decomposition by soil microbes (3). The permafrost region contains twice as much carbon as there is currently in the atmosphere (5). A substantial fraction of this material can be mineralized by microbes and converted to CO2 and CH4 on timescales of years to decades. At the proposed rates, the observed and projected emissions of CH4 and CO2 from thawing permafrost are unlikely to cause abrupt climate change over a period of a few years to a decade. Instead, permafrost carbon emissions are likely to be felt over decades to centuries as northern regions warm, making climate change happen faster than we would expect on the basis of projected emissions from human activities alone (5).

Abrupt permafrost thaw occurs when warming melts ground ice, causing the land surface to collapse into the volume previously occupied by ice. This process, called thermokarst, alters surface hydrology. Water is attracted towards collapse areas, and pooling or flowing water in turn causes more localized thawing and even mass erosion. Owing to these localized feedbacks that can thaw through tens of metres of permafrost across a hillslope within only a few years, permafrost thaw occurs much more rapidly than would be predicted from changes in air temperature alone. Abrupt thaw is an important mechanism of rapid permafrost degradation, yet abrupt thaw is not included in large-scale models, suggesting that important landscape transformations are not currently being considered in forecasts of permafrost carbon–climate feedbacks. This is in part due to the fact that we do not know at this stage what the relative importance of abrupt to gradual thaw across the landscape is likely to be (5). 

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 Europe.

  1. IPCC (2014)
  2. Caesar et al. (2013); Koven et al. (2013), both in: IPCC (2014)
  3. Schuur et al. (2015)
  4. IPCC (2013), in: Schuur et al. (2015)
  5. Zimov et al. (2006); Tarnocai et al. (2009), both in: Schuur et al. (2015)

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