SW Europe faces greatest multi-hazard climate risks

Europe drought and climate change
In early December 2015 the European Alps were mostly free of snow during a lengthy dry period. @bberwyn photo.

Flooding, droughts and wildfires all expected to increase

Staff Report

New European climate modeling doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the decades ahead. With global warming, Europe is facing a progressively stronger increase in multiple climate hazards, according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

Early in the 21st century, reported losses from extreme weather are already at historically high levels, and climate change is likely to increase the risk, the researchers concluded in a new paper presented late April at the European Geosciences Union annual assembly in Vienna.

The new models are aimed at evaluating changes in the frequency of heatwaves and cold snaps, river and coastal flooding, droughts, wildfires and windstorms. According to the study, southwestern Europe is most at risk, facing the threat of more heatwaves, drought and wildfires. Specifically, the researchers were aiming to generate a multi-hazard climate risk assessment.

Densely populated and economically important areas along coastlines and in floodplains are at risk of suffering extreme damage from floods and windstorms, the report found, projecting that very extreme events will become much more frequent.

Other regions exposed to multi-hazards include the British Isles, the North Sea area, north-western parts of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as parts of France, the Alps, Northern Italy and Balkan countries along the Danube River.

For example, streamflow droughts may become more severe and persistent in Southern and Western Europe, with 100-year events happening every two t0 five years by 2080 because of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation driven by higher temperatures.

Most of Europe, especially Western, Eastern and Central regions, could experience an increase in the frequency of extreme wildfires. Southern Europe may be spared that risk — but only because it will be too hot and dry for much vegetation to grow in the first place.







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