Environmental hazards due to climate change set to increase in Europe – with regional differences

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Researchers have modelled the exposure to multiple hazards across different regions of Europe in relation to heat, cold, drought, wildfire, flooding and wind.

The study indicated that, over the next century, environmental hazards are likely to increase, particularly along coastlines and on floodplains, and that south-western Europe is likely to be the worst-hit region.

Europe is expected to face extreme climatic events over the coming decades, which will lead to increased hazards to the environment and society. Extreme climatic events are unexpected or unusual weather- or climate-related hazards, such as major heat waves, flooding, droughts or wildfires.

A changing climate is likely to affect different regions in Europe to varying extents. Furthermore, assessing multiple hazards is difficult as they work in different ways and can also interact to produce combined effects. This study attempted to identify areas in Europe with the highest level of exposure to a range of climate hazards in order to inform adaptation and land planning efforts.

The researchers modelled hazards in Europe, accounting for regional variation in the intensity and frequency of climatic extremes. Climate hazards indicators were derived for the baseline (1981–2010) and over three periods to the end of the century (2011–2040, 2041–2070 and 2071–2100). Specifically, they predicted the threat posed by heat- and cold-waves, river and coastal floods, droughts, wildfires and windstorms. Climate simulations were based on ‘business-as-usual’ greenhouse-gas emissions under the A1B emissions scenario of the IPCC.

Source: Forzieri, G., Feyen, L., Russo, S., Vousdoukas, M., Alfieri, L., Outten, S., Migliavacca, M., Bianchi, A., Rojas, R. & Cid, A. (2016). Multi-hazard assessment in Europe under climate change. Climatic Change, 137(1): 105-119 DOI:10.1007/s10584-016-1661-x. This study is free to view at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-016-1661-x