Europe to suffer from more severe and persistent droughts

Jan 09, 2014
Dry river bed in a peat upland in Northern England (Credit: Catherine Moody, distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

As Europe is battered by storms, new research reminds us of the other side of the coin. By the end of this century, droughts in Europe are expected to be more frequent and intense due to climate change and increased water use. These results, by researchers from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the University of Kassel in Germany, are published today in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

"Our research shows that many river basins, especially in southern parts of Europe, are likely to become more prone to periods of reduced supply due to climate change," says Giovanni Forzieri, a researcher in climate risk management at the JRC and lead author of the study. "An increasing demand for water, following a growing population and intensive use of water for irrigation and industry, will result in even stronger reductions in river flow levels."

Drought is a major natural disaster that can have considerable impacts on society, the environment and the economy. In Europe alone, the cost of drought over the past three decades has amounted to over 100 billion euros. In this study, the researchers wanted to find out if and where in Europe increasing temperatures and intensive water consumption could make future droughts more severe and long-lasting.

To do this, they analysed climate and hydrological models under different scenarios. "Scenarios are narratives of possible evolutions – up to 2100 in this study – of our society that we use to quantify future greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption by different sectors," explains Luc Feyen, a hydrologist at JRC and co-author of the paper. "Climate and water-use models then translate the and water requirement into future climate and projections."

The scientists then used these projected conditions to drive a hydrological model that mimics the distribution and flow of water on Earth. By running this model until 2100 for all in Europe, they could evaluate how drought conditions may change in magnitude and severity over the 21st century.

The research shows that southern parts of Europe will be the most affected. Stream and river minimum flow levels may be lowered by up to 40% and periods of water deficiency may increase up to 80% due to alone in the Iberian Peninsula, south of France, Italy and the Balkans.

Higher temperatures not only result in more water being evaporated from soils, trees and bodies of water, but will also lead to more frequent and prolonged dry spells, reducing water supply and worsening droughts. The emission scenario used in the study predicts that average global temperature will increase by up to 3.4°C by 2100, relative to the period 1961-1990. But the authors warn that the warming projected for Europe, particularly its southern regions, is even stronger. "Over the Iberian Peninsula, for example, summer mean temperature is projected to increase by up to 5°C by the end of this century," says Feyen.

In addition to climate warming, intensive water use will further aggravate drought conditions by 10-30% in southern Europe, as well as in the west and centre of the continent, and in some parts of the UK.

"The results of this study emphasise the urgency of sustainable water resource management that is able to adapt to these potential changes in the hydrological system to minimise the negative socio-economic and environmental impacts," Forzieri concludes.

Explore further: More droughts, heavier rains in warmer Europe, study reports

More information: The discussion paper (before peer review) and reviewers comments is available at www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci-disc… d-10-10719-2013.html

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Returners
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 09, 2014
"Our research shows that many river basins, especially in southern parts of Europe, are likely to become more prone to periods of reduced water supply due to climate change," says Giovanni Forzieri, a researcher in climate risk management at the JRC and lead author of the study. "An increasing demand for water, following a growing population and intensive use of water for irrigation and industry, will result in even stronger reductions in river flow levels."


Can you guys make up your minds?

The last few years they blamed all the floods on AGW, now they want to predict and blame future droughts on AGW.

Is there anything you guys won't blame on AGW? When are you people going to give it a rest?

Over the Iberian Peninsula, for example, summer mean temperature is projected to increase by up to 5°C by the end of this century


Even if this were to happen, you'd see full-blown hurricanes in the mediterranean, which makes the severe drought predictions dubious at best.
Maggnus
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 09, 2014
Ok "skippy" I'm sure you think we are all amazed at the number of posts you can add to a site in such a short period, but you are becoming rather onerous with your complete lack of anything approaching scientific understanding. Mostly, you manage to get things so convoluted, it can't even be said you got them wrong.

You might want to do some reading "Skippy". Hurricanes can't form in the Mediterranean. Increasing severe floods due to higher moisture content in the air combined with more frequent and extended drought due to higher average temperatures is EXACTLY what would be expected in a warming world. Even the denialists understand that logic.

Maybe you should try an experiment. Do less talking and more reading. After all, it is better to be thought of as a fool than to reveal your stupidity by posting on every subject, thereby removing any doubt.