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Briefing

What will the future bring when it comes to climate hazards? - Overview

Briefing Published 17 Nov 2021 Last modified 23 Nov 2021
3 min read
Photo: © © Dario Landi, Climate Change PIX /EEA
A carefully selected set of indices covering the main climate-related hazards for Europe has been put together from available data sources by experts in the field. These 32 indices are organised according to 16 hazards and are grouped into six categories consistent with the ‘climatic impact drivers’ adopted in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report. These categories and the key take-home messages from the EEA’s interactive report on Europe’s changing climate hazards are found below.

Key messages


  • Heat and cold. Mean air temperature will rise steadily across Europe. As a result, growing degree days and cooling degree days will increase, whereas heating degree days and days with frost will decrease. Hot extremes are expected to increase even faster than mean temperatures. Humid heatwaveswhich pose a great risk to human health, are projected to increase rapidly across Europe. 

  • Wet and dry. Projected changes in annual precipitation are expected to differ considerably across regions and seasons. In northern Europeannual precipitation and heavy rainfall are likely to increase, with droughts becoming less frequent. Mixed changes are expected for summer rainfall, flooding eventsaridity and fire hazardsCentral Europe is likely to experience lower summer rainfall, but also harsher weather extremes (heavy precipitationriver floodsdroughts and fire hazards), with mixed changes in annual precipitation and aridity. In southern Europe, annual precipitation and summer rainfall are projected to decrease, whereas aridity, droughts and fire hazards are all likely to increase. Mixed changes are projected for heavy precipitation and river floods. 

  • Wind. Climate models anticipate relatively minor changes in mean wind speed. Storm intensity is projected to increase across Europe, but changes in the frequency are projected to differ across regions. 

  • Snow and ice. Snowfall is projected to decrease in central and southern Europe, whereas mixed changes are anticipated for northern Europe. Snow cover is projected to decrease across Europe. 

  • Coastal. Most coastal regions in Europe will experience further increases in mean and extreme sea levels, with the exception of the northern Baltic Sea, where land levels are still rising following the last ice age. 

  • Open ocean. Sea surface temperature is projected to increase in all European regional seas, with associated increases in marine heatwaves. Europes seas are also expected to become more acidic. 

32 climate indices for the 16 climate hazards, grouped into six hazard types, as identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Sixth Assessment Report: 

Sundial

Projected changes in climate-related hazards across Europe during the 21st century (click on the hazards to access detailed information and the visualisations) 

 

Category

Hazard

Index name

Northern
Europe

Central
Europe

Southern
Europe

Heat and cold

Mean air temperature

Mean temperature

Growing degree days

Heating degree days

Cooling degree days

Extreme heat

Tropical nights

Hot days

Warmest three-day period

Heatwave days based on apparent temperature

Climatological heatwave days

Days with Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) above a threshold

This index has increased in recent decades in central and southern Europe whereas no robust trend was detected for northern Europe. Projections are not currently available.

Frost

Frost days

Wet and dry

Mean precipitation

Total precipitation

Annual: ↗

Summer:

Annual:

Summer:

Annual: ↘

Summer:

Heavy precipitation and river flood* 

 

Maximum consecutive
5-day precipitation

Extreme precipitation total

      →

Frequency of extreme precipitation

     

River flood index using runoff

Aridity

Aridity actual

Consecutive dry days

       →

Drought *

Duration of meteorological droughts

Magnitude of meteorological droughts

Duration of soil moisture droughts

Increasing soil moisture droughts are projected for southern Europe. Constant or increasing droughts are projected for central Europe, and constant or decreasing droughts are projected for northern Europe.

Fire weather

Days with fire danger exceeding a threshold

       →

Wind

Mean wind speed

Mean wind speed

       →

      →

      →

Severe wind storm

Extreme wind speed days

Increasing frequency and intensity of storms is projected for northern and central Europe; decreasing storm frequency but increasing intensity is projected for southern Europe.

Snow and ice

Snow, glacier and
ice sheet

Snowfall amount

Period with snow water equivalent above threshold

Coastal

Relative sea level

Relative sea level rise

↗ **

Coastal flood

Extreme sea level

↗ **

Open ocean

Mean ocean temperature

Sea surface temperature

Marine heatwave

Duration of marine heatwaves

Projected increase in all European regional seas

Ocean chemistry: dissolved oxygen and ocean acidity*

Dissolved oxygen level

Most stations exhibit no robust trends in recent decades, but some stations in the Baltic Sea and the Greater North Sea show decreasing oxygen levels. Projections are not available.

Ocean pH level

Surface ocean pH levels are projected to decline (i.e., the water becomes more acidic) both in the open ocean and in enclosed seas.

 Legend:

Increase throughout most of a region / Europe

Decrease throughout most of a region / Europe

Increases as well as decreases in a region / Europe

No significant changes from the current situation 

Notes:

  • Information refers to a high emissions (or forcing) scenario (i.e., RCP8.5); lower emissions scenarios usually show the same direction of projected change, but lower magnitude and/or robustness.
  • ‘Europe’ refers to the land area of the 38 EEA member and cooperating countries (EEA-38) as of 1 February 2020. ‘Coastal’ indices refer to the coastline of EEA-38. ‘Open ocean’ indices refer to the European regional seas.
  • The three European subregions (‘Northern’, ‘Central’ and ‘Southern’) are mostly consistent with the three IPCC climate reference regions in the IPCC AR6 that cover the EEA-38 countries (NEU, WCE and MED; see Section 2.2 for details).
  • (*) This hazard category comprises two climatic impact driver categories from the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report
  • (**) Relative sea level and extreme sea level may decrease in the northern Baltic Sea due to isostatic adjustment.

 

Further information on the underlying data sets, calculation methods and visualisations used in this report is available in this background document. 

Acronyms and abbreviations, concepts and definitions

Chapters of the Europe's changing climate hazards report

  1. Heat and cold

  2. Wet and dry

  3. Wind

  4. Snow and ice

  5. Coastal

  6. Open ocean

                                                                               

Back to main page of the report

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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