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European precipitation (CLIM 002) - Assessment published Sep 2008

Indicator Assessment Created 18 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 28 Oct 2011, 02:42 PM
Topics: ,

Update planned for November 2012

Generic metadata


Climate change Climate change (Primary topic)

climate change | climate | precipitation | rain
DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CLIM 002
Temporal coverage:
1961-2011, 2080-2098
Geographic coverage:
Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, EU27, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244/99), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom

Key policy question: .

Key messages

  • Annual precipitation trends in the 20th century showed an increase in northern Europe (10-40 %) and a decrease in some parts of southern Europe (up to 20 %).
  • Mean winter precipitation has increased in most of western and northern Europe (20 to 40 %), whereas southern Europe and parts of central Europe were characterized by drier winters.
  • Models project an increase in winter precipitation in northern Europe, whereas many parts of Europe may experience dryer summers. But there are uncertainties in the magnitude and geographical details of the changes.

Trends in annual precipitation across Europe between Jan 1960 and Jan 2012

Note: The figure shows trends in annual precipitation across Europe between Jan 1960 and Jan 2012. The trends are calculated using a median of pairwise slopes algorithm (Sen, 1968 ) (Lazante, 1996). 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. Area averaged annual time series of percentage changes and trend lines are shown below each map for one area in northern Europe (Blue line, 5.6o to 16.9oE and 56.2o to 66.2oN) and one in south-western Europe (red line, 350.6o to 1.9oE and 36.2o to 43.7oN). Refer to (Met Office, 2012) for full explanation of methodology

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Modelled precipitation change between 1980-1999 and 2080-2099

Note: Left: annual; middle: winter (DJF); right summer (JJA) changes % for the IPCC-SRES A1B emission scenario averaged over 21 models (MMD-A1B simulations).

Data source:

Christensen, J. H.; Hewitson, B.; Busuioc, A.; Chen, A.; Gao, X.; Held, I.; Jones, R.; Kolli, R. K.; Kwon, W.-T.; Laprise, R.; Magaña Rueda, V.; Mearns, L.; Menéndez, C. G.; Räisänen, J.; Rinke, A.; Sarr, A. and Whetton, P., 2007. Regional Climate Projections. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Solomon, S.; Qin, D.; Manning, M.; Chen, Z.; Marquis, M.; Averyt, K. B.; Tignor, M. and Miller, H. L. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

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Key assessment

Past trends

Precipitation in Europe generally increased over the 20th century, on average 6-8 % between 1901 and 2005. Geographically, there is a variation (see Figure 1); an increase in north-west Europe, partly due to stronger advection of wet Atlantic air masses to this part of the continent. Drying has been observed in the Mediterranean and eastern Europe and no clear trends have been observed in western Mean winter (December-February) precipitation is increasing 20-40 % in most of western and northern Europe (Klein Tank et al., 2002), because western circulation was stronger in winter. Conversely, southern Europe and parts of central Europe were characterized by a drier winter. Trends in spring and autumn were not significant.


Climate models project changes in precipitation that vary considerably from season to season and across regions. Geographically, projections indicate a general precipitation increase in northern Europe and a decrease in southern Europe. The change in annual mean between 1980-1999 and 2080-2099 for the intermediate IPCC SRES A1B projections varies from 5 to 20 % in northern Europe and from -5 to -30 % in southern Europe and the Mediterranean (Figure 2). Many impact studies (see other indicators) use the high emission A2 scenario. Under this scenario the projected changes are mostly larger.
Seasonally, models project a large-scale increase in winter precipitation in mid and northern Europe. Many parts of Europe are projected to experience dryer (Figure 2). Relatively small precipitation changes are projected for spring and autumn (Raisanen et al., 2004; Kjellstrom, 2004).

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Blaz Kurnik


EEA Management Plan

2008 0.0.0 (note: EEA internal system)



European Environment Agency (EEA)
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