Is Austria a climate change hotspot?

Alpine country warming faster than global average

A map showing the changing climate suitability  for different varieties of grapes suggests how the country’s climate is going to warm in coming decades.
Austria’s glaciers are dwindling fast. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Austria is one of Europe’s climate change hotspots, scientists said last week as they released a comprehensive climate assessment showing that temperatures in the alpine country are climbing much faster than the global average.

“Already by now, Austria has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius in contrast to the rest of the world, with 0.85 degrees Celsius,” said project leader Nebojsa Nakicenovic, deputy director of the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Not surprisingly, the warming has also lead to a big jump in the average temperatures of Austria’s lakes and rivers, which since the 1980s, warmed by 1.5 degrees in summer and 0.7 degrees Celsius in winter, according to the assessment.

By 2050, Austria’s average temperature is expected to climb another 1.4 degrees Celsius regardless of any immediate cuts made in greenhouse gas emissions. The warming climate of the past few decades has already brought changes, including more hours of sunshine and increases in extreme weather events, including rainstorms and flooding, according to the Austrian Assessment Report.

“Climate change is happening at the global level, but its effects will be different in every country,” said Nakicenovic, who was the project leader. “It is vital that we understand how climate change will impact Austria, in order to embark on mitigation and adaptation strategies at a national level.”

Over 240 scientists from over 50 institutions contributed data and findings to the report, and the review process included 71 external reviewers, over 2900 comments and questions, and 13 review editors who ensured that all comments were taken into consideration.

Like many other parts of the world, Austria can expect more extreme heat in the summer and fewer cold days in winter, and the decrease in snow cover duration and glacier extent are all but certain to continue.

According to the assessment, the surface extent of Austria’s glaciers decreased by about 16 percent between 1969 and 1998 while thinning by more than 25 feet. In the most optimistic climate scenario, the country’s glaciers will stabilize near the end of the century, at 20 percent of their present volume.

More findings from the report:

  • Precipitation patterns are likely to change, but with significant regional differences. On average, the report projects an increase in precipitation in winter months, and a decrease in summer months.
  • The risk of natural disasters including landslides and rockfalls, as well as forest fires, is project to increase as precipitation patterns change and the temperature increases.




2 thoughts on “Is Austria a climate change hotspot?

  1. The “Austrian Assessment Report” does not mention the change in albedo in area with high snow cover. As with the Arctic Polar region, the loss of snow and ice cover means a loss of reflectivity from the changing snow/ice albedo. This means more exposed soil and water with their resultant heat absorption and warming, which, in turn, accelerates the snow/ice melting. This “positive feedback” loop also means more precipitation as rain instead of snow, increasing the acceleration.

    Bert Melcher

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