- Annual precipitation since 1960 shows an increasing trend of up to 70 mm per decade in north-eastern and north-western Europe, and a decrease of up to 90 mm per decade in some parts of southern Europe. At mid-latitudes no significant changes in annual precipitation have been observed. Mean summer precipitation has significantly decreased by up to 20 mm per decade in most of southern Europe, while significant increases of up to 18 mm per decade have been recorded in parts of northern Europe.
- Projected changes in precipitation vary substantially across regions and seasons. Annual precipitation is generally projected to increase in northern Europe and to decrease in southern Europe. The projected decrease in southern Europe is strongest in the summer.
What is the trend in precipitation across Europe?
Trends in annual and summer precipitation across Europe between 1960 and 2015
Note: Grid boxes outlined in solid black contain at least three stations and so are likely to be more representative of the grid box. A black dot indicates that the long-term trend is significant at the 5% level. The classes for annual and summer precipitation differ (by factor 4) because annual precipitation covers 12 months whereas summer precipitation covers 3 months only.
- E-OBS gridded dataset provided by Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI)
Projected change in annual and summer precipitation
Note: Projected changes in annual (left) and summer (right) precipitation (%) in the period 2071-2100 compared to the baseline period 1971-2000 for the forcing scenario RCP 8.5. Model simulations are based on the multi-model ensemble average of RCM simulations from the EURO-CORDEX initiative.
- EURO-CORDEX data provided by EURO-CORDEX initiative
According to the E-OBS dataset [i], average annual precipitation across Europe shows no significant changes since 1960. However, significant changes have been observed at sub-continental scales. Most precipitation studies show a tendency towards wetter conditions in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the 20th century, but the changes are less spatially coherent than temperature change. The majority of Scandinavia and the Baltic states have observed an increase in annual precipitation of greater than 17 mm per decade, which is as high as 70 mm per decade in western Norway (Figure 1, left panel). Winter precipitation (December to February) tends to decrease in limited areas in southern Europe, and significant increases (up to 70 mm per decade) have been recorded in most of northern Europe [ii]. In contrast, annual precipitation has decreased by up to 90 mm per decade in the Iberian Peninsula, in particular in central Portugal. Mean summer (June to August) precipitation has significantly decreased by up to 20 mm per decade in most of southern Europe, while significant increases (up to 18 mm per decade) have been recorded in parts of northern Europe (Figure 1, right panel) [iii].
Changes in large-scale circulation patterns (synoptic atmospheric circulation) play a key role in the observed changes in precipitation [iv]. It is not clear if the relatively minor land-use changes in Europe since the 1950s have influenced observed precipitation trends [v].
For a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), the models (ensemble mean) project a statistically significant increase in annual precipitation in large parts of central and northern Europe (of up to about 30 %) and a decrease in southern Europe (of up to 40 %) from 1971–2000 to 2071–2100 (Figure 2 left panel); in summer, the precipitation decrease extends northwards (Figure 2 right panel) [vi]. A zone with small changes that are not significant (but are, however, partially robust in the direction of the change), shows where the precipitation pattern (as presented in the ensemble mean) changes the direction of the change. For a medium emissions scenario (RCP4.5), the magnitude of change is smaller, but the pattern is very similar to the pattern for the RCP8.5 scenario. The range of projected changes in precipitation from the multi-model ensemble are generally the same between RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, or larger in RCP8.5, especially at the end of the century [vi].
[i] M R Haylock et al., “A European Daily High-Resolution Gridded Data Set of Surface Temperature and Precipitation for 1950–2006,”Journal of Geophysical Research 113, no. D20 (2008): D20119, doi:10.1029/2008JD010201.
[ii] Douglas Maraun, “When Will Trends in European Mean and Heavy Daily Precipitation Emerge?,”Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 1 (March 1, 2013): 014004, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014004.
[iii] E. J. M. van den Besselaar, A. M. G. Klein Tank, and T. A. Buishand, “Trends in European Precipitation Extremes over 1951–2010,”International Journal of Climatology 33, no. 12 (2013): 2682–89, doi:10.1002/joc.3619; A. Casanueva et al., “Variability of Extreme Precipitation over Europe and Its Relationships with Teleconnection Patterns,”Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18, no. 2 (February 19, 2014): 709–25, doi:10.5194/hess-18-709-2014.
[iv] Casanueva et al., “Variability of Extreme Precipitation over Europe and Its Relationships with Teleconnection Patterns”; A. K. Fleig et al., “Attribution of European Precipitation and Temperature Trends to Changes in Synoptic Circulation,”Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 19, no. 7 (July 13, 2015): 3093–3107, doi:10.5194/hess-19-3093-2015.
[v] Christopher M. Taylor, “Detecting Soil Moisture Impacts on Convective Initiation in Europe,”Geophysical Research Letters 42, no. 11 (June 16, 2015): 2015GL064030, doi:10.1002/2015GL064030.
[vi] Daniela Jacob et al., “EURO-CORDEX: New High-Resolution Climate Change Projections for European Impact Research,”Regional Environmental Change 14, no. 2 (2014): 563–78, doi:10.1007/s10113-013-0499-2.
Indicator specification and metadata
Observed trends in annual and summer precipitation across Europe 1960-2015
Projected changes in mean annual and summer precipitation (%) in the period 2071–2100 compared with the baseline period 1971–2000 for the forcing scenario RCP8.5. Model simulations are based on the multi-model ensemble average of many different RCM simulations from the EURO-CORDEX initiative.
- Trends in annual and summer precipitation (mm/decade)
- Projected changes in annual and summer precipitation (%)
Policy context and targets
In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
In September 2016, the EC presented an indicative roadmap for the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy by 2018.
In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. The 7th EAP is intended to help guide EU action on environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020. It highlights that ‘Action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase the resilience of the Union’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the Union’s natural resources.’ Consequently, several priority objectives of the 7th EAP refer to climate change adaptation.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
7th Environment Action Programme
DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives in the future. This web portal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it enhances the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Methodology for indicator calculation
Precipitation trends in Europe are obtained by using data from E-OBS database. E-OBS is a daily gridded observational dataset for precipitation, temperature and sea level pressure in Europe based on ECA&D information. The full dataset covers the period 1950-01-01 until 2016-08-31. It has originally been developed and updated as parts of the ENSEMBLES (EU-FP6) and EURO4M (EU-FP7) projects. Currently it is maintained and elaborated as part of the UERRA project (EU-FP7).
Trends are calculated using a median of pairwise slopes algorithm. Black dots represent high confidence in the sign of the long-term trend in the box (if the 5th to 95th percentile slopes are of the same sign). Boxes which have a thick outline contain at least three stations.
Projections are based on the EURO-CORDEX initiative (http://www.euro-cordex.net/). They have been obtained from different regional climate models (RCMs) performing at 11 km spatial resolution with boundary conditions from five global climate models (GCMs), using different RCPs.
Methodology for gap filling
Europe has a long history of collecting climate information, datasets containing daily climate information across the continent are scarce. Furthermore, accurate climate analysis requires long term time series without artificial breaks. The objective of the ECA&D project was to compile such a data set, consisting of homogeneous, long-term daily climate information. To ensure a uniform analysis method and data handling, data were centrally collected from about 200 meteorological stations in most countries of Europe and parts of the Middle East. Furthermore, the data were processed and analysed at one institute (i.e. KNMI) (Klok et.al. , 2008).
- A European daily high-resolution gridded data set of surface temperature and precipitation for 1950–2006. M.R Haylock et al. A European daily high-resolution gridded data set of surface temperature and precipitation for 1950–2006. Journal of Geophysical Research113, Nr. D20 (2008): D20119
- Updated and extended European dataset of daily climate observations. E. J. Klok and A. M. G. Klein Tank Updated and extended European dataset of daily climate observations. International Journal of Climatology29 (2009): 1182–1191
- EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research. D. Jacob et al. 2014. EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research. Regional Environmental Change, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 563-578.
See under "Methodology".
Data sets uncertainty
Daily precipitation totals are standard meteorological measures that have been recorded systematically since the 1860s. However, despite longevity of the precipitation record in certain areas, the high spatial and temporal variability of precipitation means that the climate change signal cannot be detected with certainty in all European regions. Difficulties for detecting a significant trend can arise from the small sampling area of rain gauges, calibration errors in instrumentation, erroneous measurements during weather conditions such as snow or gales, and from limited sampling of the spatial variability of precipitation, such as in mountainous areas. Therefore, observed and projected precipitation changes should always be considered in the context of interannual variability and the measurement or modelling uncertainty.
see under "Methodology uncertainty"
provided by EURO-CORDEX initiative
E-OBS gridded dataset
provided by Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoBlaz Kurnik
EEA Management Plan2016 1.4.1 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/european-precipitation-2/assessment or scan the QR code.
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