Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation can have considerable impacts on society, including the built environment, agriculture, industry and ecosystem services. Long dry spells can lead to droughts and high precipitation intensities may cause flooding. An assessment of past trends and future projections of extreme precipitation is therefore essential for advising policy decisions on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The risks posed by precipitation-related hazards, such as flooding events (including flash floods) and droughts, are also influenced by non-climatic factors, such as population density, floodplain development and land-use change. Hence, estimates of future changes in such risks need to consider changes in both climatic and non-climatic factors. Estimates of trends in heavy or extreme precipitation are more uncertain than trends in mean precipitation because, by their very nature, extreme precipitation events occur rarely. This leads to greater uncertainties when assessing the statistical significance of observed changes.
- Trends in European Precipitation Extremes over 1951–2010 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): 2682–2689, doi:10.1002/joc.3619.
- Trends and Extremes of Drought Indices throughout the 20th Century in the Mediterranean P. M. Sousa et al., “Trends and Extremes of Drought Indices throughout the 20th Century in the Mediterranean,” Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 11, no. 1 (January 5, 2011): 33–51, doi:10.5194/nhess-11-33-2011
- Projections of Extreme Precipitation Events in Regional Climate Simulations for Europe and the Alpine Region J. Rajczak, P. Pall, and C. Schär, “Projections of Extreme Precipitation Events in Regional Climate Simulations for Europe and the Alpine Region,” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 118, no. 9 (2013): 3610–3626, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50297;
- IPCC, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation IPCC, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. C. B. Field et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), chap. 3, http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/report/ ;
- IPCC 2014: WG II AR5 IPCC 2014: WG II AR5. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 23: Europe.
- 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.
- Extreme Weather Events in Europe: preparing for climate change adaptation Ø. Hov, U. Cubasch, E. Fischer, P. Höppe, T. Iversen, N.G. Kvamstø, Z. W. Kundzewicz, D. Rezacova, D. Rios, F. Duarte Santos, B. Schädler, O. Veisz, C. Zerefos, R. Benestad, J. Murlis, M. Donat, G. C. Leckebusch, U. Ulbrich. Extreme Weather Events in Europe: preparing for climate change adaptation (2013). Report produced by Norwegian Meteorological Institute in cooperation with EASAC
- Change in intense precipitation in Europe Zolina, O., 2012. Change in intense precipitation in Europe, in: Kundzewicz, Z.W. (Ed.), Changes in Flood Risk in Europe. Special Publication No.10. IAHS Press, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK
- Trends in consecutive wet days and consecutive dry days
- Projected changes in heavy precipitation in summer and winter
- length of dry spell (in days)
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.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
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 later. This webportal 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 will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Key policy question
What is the trend in the length of dry and wet periods, and in heavy precipitation events across Europe?
Methodology for indicator calculation
The number of consecutive wet days is defined as the number of days in a row during which every day is a wet day (daily precipitation amounts are more than 1 mm in every day during the period). Respectively, consecutive dry days show less than 1 mm per day. Ensemble of RCMs driven by different GCMs all using RCP8.5 scenario has been used to calculate changes in heavy precipitation and dry spells. Heavy precipitation is defined as the intensity of the heavy precipitation events defined as the 95th percentile of daily precipitation (only days with precipitation higher than 1 mm/day are considered). Dry spells are defined as periods of at least 5 consecutive days with daily precipitation below 1 mm.
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
The risks posed by precipitation-related hazards, such as flooding events (including flash floods) and landslides, are also influenced by non-climatic factors, such as population density, floodplain development and land-use change. Hence, estimates of future changes in such risks need to consider changes in both climatic and non-climatic factors. Estimates of trends in heavy or extreme precipitation are more uncertain than trends in mean precipitation because, by their very nature, extreme precipitation events have a low frequency of occurrence. This leads to greater uncertainties when assessing the statistical significance of observed changes.
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoBlaz Kurnik
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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