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According to three different observational records of the annual global average near-surface (land and ocean) temperature, the decade from 2006 to 2015 was 0.83 °C to 0.89 °C warmer than the pre-industrial average. This makes it the warmest decade on record. 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, and 2015 was the warmest year on record - around 1 °C warmer than the pre-industrial period.
Over the decade 2006-2015, the rate of change in global average surface temperature was between 0.10 and 0.24 °C per decade. This is close to the indicative limits of 0.2 °C/decade.
The average annual temperature of the European land area, for the decade from 2006–2015, was around 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial level. This makes it the warmest decade on record. Moreover, 2014 and 2015 were the joint warmest years in Europe since instrumental records began.
Climate models project further increases in global average temperature over the 21 st century. For the period 2081-2100 (relative to 1986-2005), increases of between 0.3 °C and 1.7 °C for the lowest emissions scenario (RCP2.6 (Representative Concentration pathway)), and between 2.6 °C and 4.8 °C for the highest emissions scenario (RCP8.5) are estimated.
The EU and UNFCCC target of limiting global average temperature increase to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels is projected to be exceeded between 2042 and 2050 by the three highest of the four RCPs.
By the end of this century (2071-2100 relative to 1971-2000), annual average land temperature over Europe is projected to increase in the range of 1 °C to 4.5 °C under RCP4.5, and 2.5 °C to 5.5 °C under RCP8.5. This is more than the global average. The strongest warming is projected over northeastern Europe and Scandinavia in winter and southern Europe in summer.
The number of warm days (those exceeding the 90 th percentile threshold of a baseline period) have almost doubled since 1960 across the European land area.
Europe has experienced several extreme heatwaves since the year 2000 (2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2015). Under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), very extreme heat waves as strong as those or even stronger are projected to occur at least every three years in the second half of the 21 st century.
In 2014, EU-28 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 24.4 % below 1990 levels (excluding Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) and international aviation). The figure is 23 % if international aviation is included.
The Emissions Trading System (ETS) covers about 42 % of EU emissions. In 2014, ETS emissions were 24 % below 2005 levels.
In sectors not covered by the ETS, GHG emissions decreased by 12.9 % compared to 2005.
In 2013, all Member States where below their Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) target. The 2014 data seem to confirm this trend across the EU.
The EU is on track to reduce GHG emissions by 20 % compared to 1990 by 2020.
The total reported economic damage caused by weather and climate-related extremes in the EEA member countries over the period 1980-2013 is almost 400 billion Euro (in 2013 Euro values). The average damage has varied between 7.6 billion Euro per year in the 1980s and 13.7 billion Euro in the 2000s.
The observed differences in reported damage over time are difficult to interpret since a large share of the total deflated losses has been caused by a small number of events. Specifically, more than 70 percent of the damage was caused by only 3 percent of all registered events.
Global average concentrations of various greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase.
The concentration of CO 2 , the most important greenhouse gas, increased to 397 parts per million (ppm) in 2014 – an increase of 119 ppm (43 %) compared to pre-industrial levels.
The total concentration of all greenhouse gases, including cooling aerosols, reached a value of 441 ppm in CO 2 equivalents in 2014 – an increase of about 3 ppm compared to 2013, and 34 ppm compared to totals measured more than 10 years ago.
The current total concentration of all greenhouse gases implies that the long-term probability of exceeding the 1.5 °C temperature increase, compared to pre-industrial levels, is already more than 50%. The atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration level that would be consistent with limiting global mean temperature increase to less than 2 °C could be exceeded over the next decades, unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.
There was no discernible trend in European ozone concentrations between 2003 and 2012, in terms of the annual mean of the daily maximum eight hour average measured at any type of station.
It is difficult to attribute observed ozone exceedences, or changes therein, to individual causes such as climate change.
Future climate change is expected to increase ozone concentrations, but this increase should not exceed 5 µg/m 3 by the middle of the century and would therefore likely be outweighed by reductions in ozone levels due to planned future emissions reductions.
End of the century projections for the effects of climate change involve an increase of up to 8 µg/m 3 in ozone concentrations .
In 2013, the transport sector contributed almost one quarter (24.4 %) of total EU-28 greenhouse gas emissions. The figure increases to 19.8%, if international aviation and maritime emissions are excluded.
In 2013, emissions from t ransport (including aviation) were 19.4 % above 1990 levels, despite a decline between 2008 and 2013. Emissions fell by 0.6 % compared to the previous year. International aviation experienced the largest percentage increase in greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels (+ 93 %), followed by international shipping (+ 28 %) and road transport (+ 17 %).
Emissions will need to fall by 67 % by 2050 in order to meet the long-term reduction target of the 2011 Transport White Paper.
A significant reduction in the EEA-33 consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS) has been achieved since 1986. This reduction has largely been driven by the 1987 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Montreal Protocol.
At the entry into force of the Montreal Protocol, EEA-33 consumption was approximately 420 000 ozone depleting potential tonnes (ODP tonnes). Values around zero were reached in 2002 and EEA-33 consumption continues to be consistently around zero since then. The European Union (EU) has taken additional measures to reduce the consumption of ozone depleting substances by means of EU law since the early 1990s. In many aspects, the current EU regulation on substances that deplete the ozone layer (1005/2009/EC) goes further than the Montreal Protocol and also brought forward the phasing out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in the EU.
Since 1990, EU-28 F-gas emissions have experienced significant growth, more than offsetting an intermittent decrease between 1997 and 2001. While PFCs and SF 6 emissions have reduced by a significant degree, a major rise can be observed for HFCs emissions, which have almost tripled since 1990.
In 2013, the net supply of F-gases to the EU declined for the third consecutive year since 2010, both in terms of metric tonnes and CO 2 -equivalents. The 2013 net supply levels are slightly below the low levels of the ‘economic crisis’ year, 2009. EU production appears to have stabilised slightly above 2008 levels after the sharp decline that was observed from 2007 to 2009. Imports of F-gases grew from 2007 to 2008, experienced a dip in the 'economic crisis' year of 2009 and have been on the decline from 2010 to 2012. However, in 2013 imports rose back to 2011 levels. Exports of F-gases have been on the rise since 2009 when expressed in metric tonnes, however, they are still below 2007 levels. Expressed in CO 2 -equivalents, however, 2013 exports dropped slightly.
Context: Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) covered by the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol comprise hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF 6 ). These F-gases typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere and high global warming potentials (GWPs). F-gases are mostly produced for use in products and equipment in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector, electrical equipment, foams, fire protection or as aerosols etc. Emissions take place mainly due to leakage during the use phase or due to failure to fully recover the F-gases at the end of the product/equipment lifetime. Future F-gas emissions are thus largely determined by (i) present day use of F-gases and (ii) measures to prevent leakage and encourage recovery.
Soil moisture content is already being affected by rising temperatures and changes in precipitation amounts, both of which are evidence of changes in climate.
Since 1951, modelled soil moisture content significantly increased in parts of northern Europe and decreased in the Mediterranean region.
Projections for 2021–2050 show a general change in summer soil moisture content over most of Europe, including significant decreases in the Mediterranean region and increases in the northeastern part of Europe.
Maintaining water-retention capacity and porosity are important to reduce the impacts of intense rainfall and droughts, which are projected to become more frequent and severe.
The modelled results are based on natural factors and disregard artificial drainage and irrigation practices.
River and coastal flooding have affected millions of people in Europe in the last decade. They affect human health through drowning, heart attacks, injuries, infections, exposure to chemical hazards, psychosocial consequences as well as disruption of services, including health services.
Observed increases in heavy precipitation and extreme coastal high-water events have increased the risk of river and coastal flooding in many European regions.
In the absence of additional adaptation, the projected increases in extreme precipitation events and in sea level would substantially increase the health risks associated with river and coastal flooding in Europe.
The extent and volume of the Arctic Sea ice has declined rapidly since global data became available in 1980, especially in summer. Record low sea ice cover in September 2007, 2011 and 2012 was roughly half the size of the normal minimum extent in the 1980s. September ice cover has somewhat recovered in 2013 and 2014 but it was still well below the average for 1981-2010.
Over the period 1979–2014, the Arctic has lost on average 42 000 km 2 of sea ice per year in winter and 91 000 km 2 per year at the end of summer. The decline in summer sea ice appears to have accelerated since 1999.
The maximum sea ice extent in the Baltic Sea has been decreasing most of the time since about 1800. The decrease appears to have accelerated since the 1980s but the large interannual variability prohibits a clear assessment as to whether this increase is statistically significant.
Arctic Sea ice is projected to continue to shrink and thin all year round. For high greenhouse gas emissions, a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in September is likely before mid-century. There will still be substantial ice in winter.
Baltic Sea ice, in particular the extent of the maximal cover, is projected to continue to shrink.
Storm location, frequency and intensity show considerable decadal variability across Europe over the past century, such that no long-term trends are apparent.
Recent studies on changes in winter storm tracks generally project an eastward extension of the North Atlantic storm track towards central Europe and the British isles, but this finding is not yet robust.
Climate change simulations show diverging projections on changes in the number of winter storms across Europe. However, almost all studies agree that storm intensities will increase in the future for the North Atlantic, northern, northwestern and central Europe.
Global mean sea level (GMSL) has risen by 19 cm from 1901 to 2013 at an average rate of 1.7 mm/year. There has been significant decadal variation of the rate of increase but an acceleration is detectable over this period. The rate of sea level rise over the last two decades, when satellite measurements have been available, is higher at 3.2 mm/year.
Most coastal regions in Europe have experienced an increase in absolute sea level as well as in sea level relative to land, but there is significant regional variation.
Extreme high coastal water levels have increased at many locations around the European coastline. This increase appears to be predominantly due to increases in mean local sea level at most locations rather than to changes in storm activity.
GMSL rise during the 21st century will very likely occur at a higher rate than during 1971–2010. Process-based models project a rise in 2081–2100, compared to 1986–2005, that is likely to be in the range 0.26–0.54 m for a low emissions scenario (RCP2.6) and 0.45–0.81 m for a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). Projections of GMSL rise from semi-empirical models are up to twice as large as from process-based models, but there is low confidence in their projections.
Available process-based models indicate GMSL rise by 2300 to be less than 1 m for greenhouse gas concentrations that peak and decline and do not exceed 500 ppm CO2-equivalent but 1 m to more than 3 m for concentrations above 700 ppm CO2-equivalent. However, these models are likely to systematically underestimate the sea level contribution from Antarctica. The multi-millennial sea level commitment is estimated at 1–3 m GMSL rise per degree of warming.
The rise in sea level relative to land at European coasts is projected to be similar to the global average, with the exception of the northern Baltic Sea and the northern Atlantic coast, which are experiencing considerable land rise as a consequence of post-glacial rebound.
Projected increases in extreme high coastal water levels in Europe will likely be dominated by increases in local relative mean sea level, with changes in the meteorologically-driven surge component being less important at most locations.
The length of the wet period has significantly increased in north-eastern Europe and decreased in south-western Europe. Changes in other regions are not statistically significant.
Data availability is insufficient for assessing trends of extreme daily precipitation across Europe. However, available studies generally point to a trend over recent decades towards more heavy precipitation, in particular in central and eastern Europe in winter.
No significant changes in the annually averaged duration of dry spells have been observed across Europe. However, increasing summer dryness has been observed in central and southern Europe since the 1950s.
Heavy precipitation events are likely to increase in most parts of Europe, especially in central and eastern Europe in winter.
The length of dry spells is projected to increase significantly in southern and central Europe, in particular in summer, and to decrease in northern Europe.
Heat waves and extreme cold spells are associated with decreases in general population well-being and with increases in mortality and morbidity, especially in vulnerable population groups. Temperature thresholds for health impacts differ according to the region and season.
The number of heat extremes has substantially increased across Europe in recent decades. Heat waves have caused tens of thousands of premature deaths in Europe over the last decade.
Length, frequency and intensity of heat waves are virtually certain to increase in the future. This increase will lead to a substantial increase in mortality over the next decades, especially in vulnerable population groups, unless adaptation measures are taken.
Cold-related mortality is projected to decrease due to better social, economic and housing conditions in many countries in Europe. However, recent studies have questioned whether the projected warming would lead to a further decrease in cold-related mortality.
The Greenland ice sheet is the largest body of ice in the Northern Hemisphere and plays an important role in the global climate system. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet has contributed about one fifth to global sea level rise in the last decade.
The Greenland ice sheet has lost ice during the last two decades at an increasing rate. The average ice loss increased from 34 billion tonnes per year over the period 1992-2001 to 215 billion tonnes per year over the period 2002-2011 and 375 billion tonnes per year over the period 2011-2013.
Model projections suggest further declines of the Greenland ice sheet in the future but the uncertainties are large. The upper bounds for the sea-level contribution during the 21 st century and the 3 rd millennium (until the year 3000) are 16 cm and 4-5 m, respectively.
Snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere has declined significantly over the past 90 years, with most of the reductions occurring since 1980. Snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased by 7% on average in March and April and by 53% in June over the 1967–2012 period; the observed reductions in Europe are even larger at 13% for March and April and 87% for June.
Snow mass in the Northern hemisphere has decreased by 7 % in March from 1982 to 2009; snow mass in Europe has decreased even more, but with large inter-annual variation.
Model simulations project widespread reductions in the extent and duration of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and in Europe over the 21 st century.
Changes in snow cover affect the Earth’s surface reflectivity, water resources, the flora and fauna and their ecology, agriculture, forestry, tourism, snow sports, transport and power generation.
Precipitation trends since 1960 show an increase by up to 70 mm per decade in north-eastern and north-western Europe, in particular in winter, and a decrease by up to 90 mm per decade in some parts of southern Europe, in particular in summer.
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. Projected decrease is the strongest in southern Europe in summer.
Yields of several crops are stagnating (e.g. wheat in some European countries) or decreasing (e.g. grapes in Spain), whereas yields of other crops (e.g. maize in northern Europe) are increasing. These effects are attributed partly due to observed climate change, in particular warming.
Extreme climatic events, including droughts and heat waves, have negatively affected crop productivity during the first decade of the 21st century. Projected increases in extreme climatic events are expected to further increase yield variability in the future.
Crop yields are affected by the combined effects of changes in temperature, rainfall and atmospheric CO 2 concentration. Future climate change can lead to both decreases and increases in yield, depending on the crop type and the climatic and management conditions in the region.
The warming of the World Ocean accounts for approximately 93 % of the warming of the Earth system during the last six decades. Warming of the upper (0–700 m) ocean accounted for about 64% of the total heat uptake.
An increasing trend in the heat content in the uppermost 700 m depth of the World Ocean is evident over the last six decades. Recent observations show substantial warming also of the deeper ocean (between 700 m and 2 000 m depth and below 3000 m depth).
Further warming of the oceans is expected with projected climate change. The amount of warming is strongly dependent on the emissions scenario.
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.
PDF generated on 29 Aug 2016, 12:28 AM
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