22 Jan 2016

2°C increase: more intense floods and droughts in Europe

Aerial view of a flooded town
Under the 2°C degree scenario intense rainfalls are projected to increase significantly over the whole continent.
© Fotolia, mb67

A JRC co-authored study finds that a 2°C rise in global temperature – the threshold agreed in the Paris climate agreement – is still expected to lead to a significant increase in floods and droughts in many regions of Europe, particularly in southern Europe, Ireland and the UK. Under this scenario, extreme events will become more frequent, particularly in Spain, Greece, France, Ireland and Albania.

Through a modelling exercise coordinated under the EU-funded project FP7 IMPACT2C, the authors use an ensemble of state-of-the-art hydrological models and climate projections to assess extreme hydrological conditions.

The climate changes expected under the 2°C degree scenario will have a significant impact on river flows in Europe. Maximum winter snowpack is expected to decrease due to global warming, while intense rainfalls are projected to increase significantly over the whole continent.

Floods are expected to increase, particularly south of the 60°N line, and to decrease significantly in parts of Finland, Russia and Sweden (reduced snow-melt floods largely due to lower snowpack). However, floods are projected to increase in coastal parts of Norway and southern Sweden.

More intense droughts are expected in much of southern Europe, the southern UK and Ireland, due to lower levels of rainfall and higher evapotranspiration. They are also expected to last longer, especially in Spain.

The recent socioeconomic and environmental impacts of extreme flooding in Ireland, the UK, and central Europe are testimony to the disastrous impacts that such future hazards are likely to pose. The predicted hydrological changes in Europe should therefore be urgently considered by policy makers and integrated into water resources and flood risk management.

 


Summary of the changes in extreme river discharges over a 10 year period under a +2°C global warming scenario. Red (green) means that (i) flood magnitude increases (decreases) more than 5 %, (ii) drought intensity increases (decreases) more than 5 %; and (iii) drought duration increases (decreases) more than 5%. Shown are only pixels where all three changes are statistically significant.
© EU, 2016