Climate change – this could be the situation in Europe in 30 years time

In the early 2040s, average global temperatures could have risen two degrees above pre-industrial levels. A research project that examines the effects of a two degree increase in temperature presents a future scenario of the climate change facing Europe.

According to climate calculations, Europe will experience substantial warming, even if the global temperature increase is only two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (known as the two degree target).

A global temperature rise of two degrees could be a reality in just 30 years. Some model simulations show that this may occur before 2030, and even in the most optimistic scenarios, it will take no longer than around 2050.

“The two degree target is a widely cited goal. To date, there are no detailed studies showing how the climate may actually be and what consequences this may have”, says Erik Kjellström climate researcher at SMHI Rossby Centre.

Climate change in Europe

For Europe, analyses of model simulations show that the most pronounced temperature increase will occur in northern and eastern Europe during the winter, and in southern Europe during the summer.

Precipitation will increase in central and northern Europe over the winter. However, in summer only northern Europe will see increased precipitation, while in central and southern Europe it will rain less.

Other changes that are to be expected include extreme temperature changes. There will be more intense heat waves and less intense cold spells. It is also expected that the amount of extreme precipitation will increase in the future.

Focus on effects

The project will now be examining the effects of climate change in Europe and some other extra-exposed regions of the world. The changes in the European climate that the model simulations reveal suggest that there may be more negative impacts on a regional scale, although there will also be positive effects.

“Heat waves and more intense downpours are among the adverse effects, while a reduced need for heating our homes in winter can be a positive impact,” says Erik Kjellström.

Researchers from SMHI are participating in the IMPACT2C project, which is part of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development, FP7. The project, which is coordinated from the Climate Service Centre in Germany, started in late 2011 and will run for four years.

When do we reach the two degree warming?

Analysis of global temperature changes and the two degree target with the SRES A1B scenario (medium-high scenario without emission restrictions) indicates that the two degree target will be exceeded in 30 years, immediately after 2040. Different climate models show slightly different projections. In the worst case scenario, the two degree target is exceeded in 2030, and even in the most optimistic cases, the two degree target will be passed around 2050.

Observed historical data for 1861-2000 (black line). The time series has been smoothed out with a 30-year running average value and the value in the chart for 1971 to 2000 is reported for 1985. Historical climate (1971-2000) and future projections (2001-2100) from various global climate models are based on emission scenario SRES A1B, where grey lines show annual mean values and the coloured lines show running 30-year annual mean values. The two degree threshold is highlighted in red.

Source: Vautard et al. 2014 and Policy Update on 2°C Warming (2013), graphics Wegener Center, UNIGRAZ 2013.