Indicator Assessment

Precipitation - outlook from UNFCCC

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-137-en
  Also known as: Outlook 045
Published 05 Jul 2010 Last modified 19 Jan 2022
8 min read
This page was archived on 09 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)

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.

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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.

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. 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 summers. Relatively small precipitation changes are projected for spring and autumn (Räisänen et al., 2004; Kjellström 2004).


Supporting information

Indicator definition

Precipitation (total volume of water precipitated to a certain surface area for a given period of time) means water, in either liquid or solid state, falling out of the clouds or depositing from the air on the land surface, on various materials or plants. Atmospheric precipitation may take the form of rain, drizzle, snow, sleet, snow pellets or small hail, hail or sleet.


The indicator is measured by the layer thickness of the precipitated water in millimetres (mm) as a percentage of perennial standards.


Policy context and targets

Context description

There is no documents providing the indicator as a target. However, precipitation projections can be used for complex climate projections and be presented in a wide range of policies and documents concerning climate change measurements.

Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty -- the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. Recently, a number of nations have approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions world wide, entered into force on February 16th 2005. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol shares the Convention's objective, principles and institutions, but significantly strengthens the Convention by committing Annex I Parties to individual, legally-binding targets to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

To date 40 countries in the Pan-European region ratified the Kyoto Protocol, notably:  Annex I: Belarus,Bulgaria,Croatia, Romania,  Russian Federation,Ukraine, EU 25. Non-Annex I countries:Albania,Armenia,Azerbaijan,Georgia,Kyrgyzstan, Former Yugoslavian Republic Macedonia,Republic ofMoldova,Turkmenistan, andUzbekistan.

Kazakhstanhas signed but not ratified the protocol. Bosnia and Herzegovina,SerbiaandMontenegro,TajikistanandTurkeyhave no commitments as they did not sign or ratify the Protocol.


There is no specific numeral target for precipitation.

Related policy documents



Methodology for indicator calculation

Data collection and calculation:

Collection of data on the quantity of atmospheric precipitation is carried out by the network of meteorological stations. National hydrometeorological services process the data, assessing their quality and consistency and calculating monthly and annual mean values. Special adjustments are made for 'wetting' and for 'wind losses'. Daily, monthly and annual precipitation quantities are determined. The relationship of the precipitation quantity for a certain period to the perennial standards is calculated as a percentage.

The best practices and concepts for climate monitoring developed in the framework of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS); the Guide to Meteorological Instruments and Methods of Observation prepared by the Main Geophysical Observatory in coordination with WMO. Climatic standards recommended by WMO are the calculated standards based on 30-year observation data (1961-1990).

Overview of the Projection Models

Projections of the precipitation reported in the National Communications are calculated using a range of Global Climate Models (GCMs).

Mostly for all countries precipitation projections are based on calculations carried out using HadCM3 model (Hadley Centre Coupled Model, version 3), developed by the Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom.

Scenarios and key assumptions


The National Communications present the three most common scenarios: a) baseline scenario or without measures scenario, b) with measures scenario or mitigation scenario, c) with additional measures scenario. These scenarios reflect various hypotheses related to economic growth, population growth, economic and policy development. They also reflect evolution of activities in the energy sector and other non-energy sectors, which contribute to GHG emissions. Each communication describes the national context for all three scenarios in detail.  

The baseline scenario includes all (and only) implemented and current policies and measures as for the time of the development of the national reports, i.g. no assumptions are made on the development and implementation of additional measures and policies in the time horizon considered. Therefore we used these data for our purposes.

Methodology for gap filling

National reports on Climate Change are not available for the following countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Tajikistan, Turkey. These countries are not parties of the Kyoto protocol (except Albania) and have no obligations to report to the convention. More detailed information about availability of the national reports can be found here.

The results of the research from individual countries or the projections done by global modeling can be used for gap filling . No gap filling was done at this stage of the project.

It is expected that the Russian Federation will submit its forth national communication in September/ October 2006. Thus there is currently no data on the temperature changes. It is possible to extract the data from the third national communication, but it will not include the current economic development in the Russian Federation and may result in bigger uncertainties in the assessment.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

Uncertainties in the projections in precipitation have not been assessed. The methodology and quality of the data differs widely between countries.
Different countries use different methodologies to calculate their projections of the precipitation. It is unclear to which extend the projections form different models are compatible. Simply to compare precipitation for baseline scenario (and across different scenarios) for different countries is not sufficient to shed light on internal consistency, plausibility, and comparability of data and the assumptions behind the scenarios. Analysis of the underlying driving forces (population growth, economic growth, energy consumption, and energy and carbon intensities) should thus also be an important part of the evaluation. Some of these driving forces are specified as model inputs, and some are derived from model outputs, so it is necessary to determine the assumed relationships among the main driving forces.

Data sets uncertainty

1) The dates for submission of the National communications vary from 1998 (Armenia) to 2006 (Belarus, Ukraine, Russia). The models used for calculations of the projected temperature, precipitation and GHG emissions by different countries use different scenarios reflecting various hypotheses related to economic growth, population growth, policy development, evolution of activities in the energy sector and other non-energy sectors, which contribute to precipitation, temperature and GHG emissions. The assumptions for the projection of GHG emission, temperature and precipitation in the National Communications produced in the earlier days may not sufficiently reflect current developments of the countries and additional analysis might be needed. Some for example claim that economic growth in some EECCA and SEE countries was not as high as it was expected and thus the projections of GHG emissions, precipitation  and temperature reported in the communications are higher than the current emission levels.

2) The dates for when simulations were run are unclear. It is however possible to asses the period of the simulation by date of publication of the national communications and the base year used for simulations which are presented in the table below.


Country Year of publishing
the most recent communication
Baseline year for
model simulation
Albania 2002 to be extracted from the NCC by the 15th October
Armenia 1998 #
Azerbaijan 2000 #
Belarus 2006 #
Bulgaria 2002 #
Croatia 2001 #
Georgia 1999 #
Kazahstan 1998 #
Kyrgistan 2003 #
Moldova 2000 #
Macedonia 2003 #
Romania 2005 #
Russia 2002 #
Turkmenistan 2000 #
Tajikistan 2002 #
Ukraine 2006/ 2003 #
Uzbekistan    1999                                                   #

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: State
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • Outlook 045
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage


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