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Climate change

The climate of Serbia

Most of Serbia has a temperate continental climate. A continental climate prevails in the mountainous areas of over 1,000 metres. The climate in the Serbian southwest borders on the Mediterranean subtropical and continental. According to measurements made during 1961–1990, the mean annual air temperatures are between 10 and 12°C in the lowlands and Metohija, below 10°C at altitudes higher than 600 metres, around 6°C at altitudes above 1,000 metres, and around 3°C at altitudes above 1,500 metres (2).

The main characteristic of the spatial distribution of precipitation in Serbia is its gradual decrease from west to east. Largest annual precipitation amount is found in the Dinaric mountains (795 mm) followed by the Carpathian- Balkan mountainous part (717 mm), and the lowest precipitation occurs in the Lowland (663 mm) (23). 

The sum of the annual precipitation increases with altitude. The lowest precipitation, under 600 mm, is characteristic for northern Serbia and parts of Kosovo. The amounts of precipitation in the Sava region as well as in the Great Morava and South Morava valley regions ranges between 600 and 700 mm, in the mountainous areas between 800 and 1000 mm a year, and above 1,000 mm a year on some mountain peaks in Southwest Serbia (2).

Air temperature changes until now

From 1961 to 2010 periods of extremely hot weather last longer and periods of extremely cold weather are shorter. These trends of duration of extreme temperature conditions are most pronounced in summer season (20). 

In the period 1949–2009, there was an increase in mean annual temperatures in almost all parts of Serbia. The rises in temperatures were higher in the northern than in the southern parts of the country (21). Serbia has experienced a statistically significant increase of the air temperature from 0.01°C/year to 0.04°C/year in the period 1961–2010 (24). The highest increase of mean annual temperatures was in Belgrade due to the urban heat island effect: 0.20°C/decade in the period 1949–2009 (2,11). Significant increase of mean annual temperature was found in almost the whole of Serbia during 1989-2010, especially due to warming of the summer season; a negative temperature trend was found for the whole of Serbia for 1961-1989 (16). Daily maximum temperature has also increased over the period 1951-2010 (21).

In 2007 Serbia experienced the most severe heat wave ever recorded in Serbia, with record values of the maximum temperature (44.9°C) (6).

The summer of 2012 was very hot and dry in South-East Europe; it was the hottest and third-driest on record in Serbia (12). For this part of South-East Europe (including parts of Northern Serbia and Southern Hungary, as well as smaller areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Romania), the change of the likelihood of an extreme summer such as the one of 2012 between the decades of 1960-1970 and 2000-2010 was assessed. This was done by studying decade-long model simulations (general circulation model and an embedded dynamical regional climate model) and observations. From this study it was concluded that the magnitude and frequency of heat waves have increased considerably in South-Europe between the 1960s and the 2000s. In addition, indices combining temperature and precipitation to assess changes in dryness and heat stress risk have been analysed; these results also show an increase in return time, although the results are subject to uncertainties (13). In agreement with these results, decreasing trends in the frequency of cold waves and increasing trends of heat waves haven been found for the period 1949 to 2012 in Serbia (15).

Precipitation changes until now


From data for 63 weather stations all over Serbia for the period 1961–2009 no significant trends have not been detected for the whole country at an annual scale. From these data very slight tendencies toward drier conditions on a seasonal scale during winter and spring and wetter conditions during autumn have been detected (14). From 1961 to 2010 there was no significant decrease in the maximum number of consecutive dry days or increase in the wet days (20). 

Previous studies show somewhat different results, however. From one study (2) it was concluded that in the period 1950–2004, most of the territory of Serbia, except the east and south parts, was characterized by a positive precipitation trend. The highest positive trend in annual precipitation was in the west of the country, whilst the highest negative trend was in the southwest. Northern Serbia had a higher increase in precipitation in the summers and autumns as well as annually than southern Serbia. A decrease in precipitation was observed in winter and spring in northern and eastern Serbia (2). An analysis of rainfall data for 12 stations in Serbia over the period 1980–2010 showed increasing trends in autumn and winter precipitation but no significant trends on the annual scale for the most of the stations (10). Over the period 1961 - 2010 a statistically significant increase of amount, intensity, and duration of precipitation was found for autumn only (20). 


Increased variation is the most pronounced characteristic of climate change in Vojvodina (northern Serbia) during the last decades, especially in the case of precipitation. The increased number of extreme weather events and variation in precipitation for the period 1981 - 2005 compared with 1951 - 1981 are common characteristics of the current state of climate change in Vojvodina (1).

Heat wave and cold wave changes until now

In the Carpathian Region (encompassing Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia), heat wave events have become more frequent, longer, more severe and intense over the period 1961 - 2010, in particular in summer in the Hungarian Plain and in Southern Romania (17). Cold wave frequency, average duration, severity, and intensity over this period, on the other hand, generally decreased in every season except autumn. In this study, a heat wave was defined as at least five consecutive days with daily maximum temperature above the long-term 90th percentile of daily maximum temperatures. Similarly, a cold wave was defined as at least five consecutive days with daily minimum temperatures below the long-term 10th percentile of daily minimum temperatures (17). 

The trend analysis shows a general tendency to more frequent, longer, more severe and more intense heat wave events in every season in the entire Carpathian Region. On the other hand, the cold waves show a general tendency to less frequent, shorter, less severe, and less intense events (17). 

The Carpathian Region and the Mediterranean area are the two European hotspots showing a drought frequency, duration, and severity increase in the past decades and in particular from 1990 onwards (18). When drought effects are exacerbated by heat waves or vice versa, such combination may cause devastating effects, as it happened in summer 2003 in Central Europe (19). 

Air temperature changes in the 21st century


RCP-scenarios: For the 2021–2050 period, compared with 1976–2005, average annual temperature is projected to increase by about 1.2°C (RCP4.5 scenario) to 1.4°C (RCP8.5 scenario). For the period 2070– 2100, average annual temperature is projected to increase by about 2.1°C (RCP4.5 scenario) to 4.1°C (RCP8.5 scenario) (23). 

SRES-scenarios: For the period 2001 to 2030 (SRES A1B scenario)  temperature is projected to rise by about 1°C, compared with 1961–1990. For 2071 to 2100, projected temperature rise is between 2.4 and 3.8°C, depending on the climate change scenario (1,2,7). The results for the seasons (compared with 1961–1990) are (2):

Season Scenario A1B 2001-2030 Scenario A1B 2071-2100 Scenario A2 2071-2100 Winter (DJF) 0.5 – 1.0°C 1.8 – 2.2°C 2.6 – 3.6°C Spring (MAM) 1.0 – 1.2°C 2.4 – 2.8°C 3.6 – 4.0°C Summer (JJA) 1.2 – 1.4°C 3.2 – 3.6°C 4.2 – 4.6°C Autumn (SON) 0.5 – 0.9°C 1.8 – 2.2°C 2.6 – 3.2°C Year 0.8 – 1.1°C 2.4 – 2.8°C 3.4 – 3.8°C


For Vojvodina (northern Serbia), the most important agricultural area of Serbia, mean annual air temperatures are expected to rise by 1.3°C in 2040 and 2.4°C in 2080, according to a number of GCMs and the SRES A2 scenario, compared with 1985 - 2005. During the winter wheat growing season, temperature rise is projected to be 10.5 - 15.5% higher in 2040 and 21.7 - 28.0% higher in 2080 than in the period 1985 - 2005 (depending on the climate model and location). However, spring crops are more vulnerable to an increased number of crop drying days and projected higher temperatures in the late spring and summer. According to the results obtained, during the spring crops growing season a temperature increase of 4.9 - 8.9% for 2040 and of 10.8 - 16.6% for 2080 is projected (1).

Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (EMME)

For the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East an analysis was carried out of long-term meteorological datasets (period 1901-2006) along with regional climate model projections for the 21st century (SRES scenario A1B) (3). The results suggest a continual, gradual and relatively strong warming of the area of about 1-3°C in the near-future (2010–2039), to 3–5°C in the mid-century period (2040–2069) and 3.5–7°C by the end of the century (2070–2099). Daytime maximum temperatures appear to increase most rapidly in the northern part of the region, i.e. the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey. Maximum day time temperature increases more strongly than mean night time minimum temperature (8).

Extremely high summer temperatures are projected to become the norm by 2070–2099; the coolest summers at the end-of-century may be warmer than the hottest ones in the recent past. As an example, the hottest summer on record in Athens in 2007 would be among the 5% coolest ones by the end of the century (3,8). The relatively strong upward trend in the northern parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East indicates a continuation of the increasing intensity and duration of heat waves observed in this region since 1960 (4). According to regional climate model results based on the IPCC SRES scenarios A1B, A2 and B2, the number of heat wave days, here defined as days with maximum temperatures exceeding the local 90th percentile of the reference period (1961–1990), typically increases by a factor of 4–10 by the middle and 7–15 by the end of the century, with the strongest increases in the Middle East (8).

Current and future daytime mean temperature trends in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East typically vary from 0.28° to 0.46°C per decade. The largest increases appear in some continental locations such as Belgrade, Sofia, Ankara, Baghdad and Riyadh with trends in excess of 0.4°C/decade. The same analysis was performed for daytime maximum and night-time minimum temperature; for daytime maximum temperature the largest upward trends are calculated for Belgrade, Sofia, Tirana and Ankara with 0.48°, 0.46°, 0.45° and 0.44°C per decade, respectively. For night-time minimum temperature, large positive trends exceeding 0.40°C/decade are derived for Belgrade, Riyadh, Baghdad, Athens, Sofia and Ankara (3,8).

A1B scenario results suggest that by the end of the century, the frequency of very hot days (maximum day time temperature >35°C) may increase up to 1–2 weeks per year in mountainous parts of the northern EMME and by about a month in much of the rest of the region. The frequency of ‘‘tropical’’ nights (mean night time minimum temperature > 25°C) also increases strongly, by nearly a month per year in the Balkans and coastal areas, and more than two months in the Gulf region, exacerbating the daytime heat stress. By the end of the century in most cities, the coolest summers may be warmer than the hottest ones today (8).

Precipitation changes in the 21st century


No significant changes in the amount of precipitation are expected up to the middle of the twenty-first century, while a more significant reduction is predicted to occur by the end of the century, with these changes ranging from -10 to -15% in Central Serbia (22). Climate projections for the periods 2001 to 2030 (SRES A1B scenario) and 2071 to 2100 (A2 scenario), indicate an increase of precipitation for Serbia of 20 to 30 mm/year for 2001 – 2030 and a decrease of precipitation of up to 30 mm/year for 2071 – 2100, compared with 1961 – 1990 (1,7). The results for the seasons (compared with 1961–1990) in percentage of change are (2):

Season Scenario A1B 2001-2030 Scenario A1B 2071-2100 Scenario A2 2071-2100 Winter (DJF) –10  –  +5% –20  –  0% –15 – +15% Spring (MAM) –15  –  +15% –15  –  +10% –30 – 0% Summer (JJA) –5  –  +30% –30 – +5% –50 – +10% Autumn (SON) –10  –  +20% –30 – +5% –30 – +10% Year –5  –  +10% –15 – 0% –15 – +5%

For the end of the century projected precipitation change strongly varies over Serbia for the A2-scenario. Model results indicate precipitation increases (5–10%) in Vojvodina, whilst it decreases in other parts of Serbia. Projected precipitation change has a large gradient increasing from north–east towards south–west, namely between 0 and –5% in the Sava and the Danube valleys; from –5 to –10% in the most parts of the central and east Serbia and on the border with Montenegro; and from –10 and –15% in the west and southwest parts of the country, as well as on the most of Kosovo and Metohija (2). For the A1B-scenario precipitation at the end of the century is projected to decrease relatively uniform over the entire country (2).

More recent so-called RCP-scenarios show an increase of precipitation during winter and a decrease during summer for both a moderate (RCP4.5) and high-end scenario of climate change (RCP8.5) by the end of this century (23). 


For Vojvodina, annual precipitation for 2040 is expected to decrease slightly, according to a number of GCMs and the SRES A2 scenario, compared with 1985 - 2005. The most significant decrease in precipitation is expected in the summer whereas precipitation during the winter wheat vegetation period is expected to increase. Precipitation is projected to decrease for the spring crops vegetation period as well (10.2 - 21.9% for 2040 and 17.1 - 31.9% for 2080) (1).

Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East

From the analysis of long-term meteorological datasets (period 1901-2006) along with regional climate model projections for the 21st century (SRES scenario A1B) a decline of annual precipitation is projected of 5–25% in 2040–2069 and 5–30% in 2070–2099 relative to the reference period 1961–1990 (3). The decreases will be particularly large (>15%) in Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestine territories and Syria. As a result of precipitation decrease, and also due to population growth rates, the per capita available internal water resources may decline strongly, for example by 50% or more by mid-century in Cyprus (9).

In the Balkans, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel, the number of rainy days may decrease, e.g. by 5–15 days at mid-century and by 10–20 days per year at the end-of-century (3). This appears to be a continuation of a trend observed in Greece since about 1960 (5).

The intensity of precipitation (maximum amount of rain per day) is expected to decrease except over the northern Balkans and the Caucasus (3).


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

  1. Lalic and Mihailovic (2011)
  2. The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of the Republic of Serbia (2010)
  3. Lelieveld et al. (2012)
  4. Kuglitsch et al. (2010), in: Lelieveld et al. (2012)
  5. Nastos and Zerefos 2009, in: Lelieveld et al. (2012)
  6. Unkašević and Tošć (2011)
  7. Krži et al. (2011)
  8. Lelieveld et al. (2013)
  9. Chenoweth et al. (2011), in: Lelieveld et al. (2013)
  10. Gocic and Trajkovic (2013)
  11. Unkašević and Tošić (2013)
  12. Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia (2012b), in: Sippel and Otto (2014)
  13. Sippel and Otto (2014)
  14. Luković et al. (2014)
  15. Unkašević and Tošić (2015)
  16. Bajat et al. (2015)
  17. Spinoni et al. (2015)
  18. Spinoni et al. (2013), in: Spinoni et al. (2015)
  19. Fink et al. (2004); Ciais et al. (2005), both in: Spinoni et al. (2015)
  20. Malinovic-Milicevic et al. (2016)
  21. Mimić et al. (2017)
  22. Kadovic et al. (2013), in: Perović et al. (2019)
  23. Milovanović et al. (2022)
  24. Milovanović et al. (2018), in: Milovanović et al. (2022)

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