Storms and storm surges in Europe
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Storms in Europe consist of extreme, near-surface damage-causing winds, associated with the passage of intense extra-tropical cyclones (Pinto et al., 2007). Storms occur, in general, in north or north-western Europe all year, but in central Europe mainly between November and February. Storm surges are temporary increases in sea level, above the level of the tide, often causing coastal flooding. Storm events can have large impacts on vulnerable systems such as transport, forestry and energy infrastructures, and also on human safety.
Storm activity in Europe and the neighboring part of the Atlantic is closely connected with atmospheric circulation. But the correlation between the NAO index and storminess across Europe varies with space and time. Direct wind observation data of sufficient quality are often lacking. Instead, storm intensity and frequency can be indirectly assessed through changes in the air pressure fields. Note that projections of changes in wind conditions are highly uncertain, mainly because of the uncertainty in atmospheric circulation projections.
Storm surges result from the combined action of atmospheric pressure and strong wind on the sea surface and occur mostly in shallow water. An increase in mean sea level will directly affect extreme levels. Changes in water depth can also influence the tidal component, modifying the extent of flooded areas. Future storm surge extremes are related both to storminess and to sea level changes.
- References Fischer-Bruns, I.; von Storch, H.; González-Rouco, F. and Zorita E., 2005. Modelling the variability of midlatitude storm activity on decadal and century time scales. Climate Dynamic, 25: 461-476. IPCC, 2007a. Cimate 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, UK. Lionello, P., 2005. Extreme surges in the Gulf of Venice. Present and future climate Venice and its lagoon, State of Knowledge. Fletcher, C. and Spencer, T. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 59-65. Lowe, J. A. and Gregory, J. M., 2005. The effects of climate change on storm surges around the United Kingdom. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A: 363: 1313-1328. Matulla, C.; Schöner, W.; Alexandersson, H.; von Storch, H. and Wang. X. L., 2007. European storminess: late nineteenth century to present. Climate Dynamics, DOI 10.1007/s00382-007-0333-y. Pinto, J. G.; Fröhlich, E. L.; Leckebusch, G. C. and Ulbrich, U., 2007. Changing European storm loss potentials under modified climate conditions according to ensemble simulations of the ECHAM5/MPI-OM1 GCM. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 7: 165-175. Smits, A.; Klein Tank, A. M. G. and Können G. P., 2005. Trends in storminess over the Netherlands, 1962- 2002. International Journal of Climatology 25: 1331-1344. van den Hurk, B.; Klein Tank, A.; Lenderink. G.; van Ulden, A.; van Oldenborgh, G. J.; Katsman, C.; van den Brink, H.; Keller, F.; Bessembinder, J.; Burgers, G.; Komen, G.; Hazeleger, W. and Sybren Drijfhout, S., 2006. KNMI Climate Change Scenarios 2006 for the Netherlands, KNMI Scientific Report WR 2006-01, 3730 AE De Bilt. von Storch, H.; Feser, F.; Pfizenmayer, A. and Weisse, R., 2002. Changig coastal weather and extremes. Proceedings WCSE/UKC-2002, Weather Risk Management, Seoul, 2002, 468-473. Woth, K., 2005. North Sea storm surge statistics based on projections in a warmer climate: How important are the driving GCM and the chosen emission scenario? Geophysical Research Letters 32, L22708, DOI:10.1029/2005GL023762.
- Storm index for various parts of Europe 1881-2005
- Projected relative change of annual maximum daily mean wind speed between 1961-2000 and 2050 using different models
- Change in the height of a 50-year return period extreme water level event for the end of 21st century for different scenarios
Policy context and targets
In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm
No targets have been specified
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Key policy question
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Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoBlaz Kurnik
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A – What is happening to the environment and to humans?)