5 May 2012

EEA maps visualize Europe's future climate

Photo: EEA
Photo: EEA
Maps produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) show changes in temperature and precipitation for this century.

Europe will be in average 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer in the period 2021-2050 than the period 1960-1990. The highest warming is projected over the eastern Scandinavia, and southern and south-eastern Europe. All areas of the continent will warm by a minimum of approximately 0.4 degrees and a maximum of 2.5 degrees.

This climate change data behind the maps comes from 25 different regional climate models, run in the frame of ENSEMBLES project, under a scenario that assumes rapid economic growth, a global population that grows to 9 billion in 2050 and then gradually declines.

Income and lifestyles converge across different regions, and new and efficient technologies are taken up. Energy is expected to come from a range of renewable and fossil sources.

Looking further ahead to the period 2071-2100, the models predict that Europe will be on average 3 degrees warmer than 1960-1990.

In north eastern Scandinavia the temperature change could be up to 6 degrees higher than the reference period, while the Mediterranean basin and parts of Eastern Europe will also see much bigger changes than elsewhere. All areas are expected to see average annual temperatures at least 1.5 degrees warmer than the reference period.

There are great differences between summer and winter. The maps show the winters will see the greatest change in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, while the biggest temperature increases in the summer will be around the Mediterranean.

For example, during the period 2021-2050 summer in some parts of the Mediterranean is expected to be up to 2.5 degrees warmer than 1961-1990. Higher temperatures lead to an increase in number of heat waves and droughts, which have great impact on water supply, agriculture production and human health.

The EEA says that is important to note that this is just one scenario, so this outcome is not certain.

Split on precipitation over Europe

Projections of annual precipitation for 2021-2050 show a clear split between decrease and increase of precipitation over Europe.

For average annual precipitation, in northern regions models project an increase and in southern and Mediterranean regions a decrease is projected – showing up to 15 percent decrease in the south, and a up to 15 percent increase in the north.

Winter precipitation will increase all over Europe, while summer precipitation will decrease. Both of these trends are more pronounced in the maps showing projections for the period 2071-2100.

Increasing precipitation in northern part can lead to more flood events in the future. The clear projection of decreasing precipitation in southern part together with an increase of temperature will probably lead to more frequent and longer droughts, which will have significant effects on agriculture and tourism industries, especially in the Mediterranean area.

Agriculture is extremely water-intensive in some Mediterranean countries, accounting for up to 80 percent of water use. These maps show that many countries will need to adapt their agricultural systems to deal with less water, or water at different times of year.

The EEA and the European Commission recently launched Climate-ADAPT, a web resource aimed at policy makers and 'practitioners' who can learn from the experience of others facing similar challenges already carrying out adaptation actions elsewhere.

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