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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Global warming is an increasing reality"
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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 18:04 GMT
Europe's climate forecast: Hot and wet
Dover PA
October's storms in southern Britain are likely more often
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

A report on how Europe's climate may change by 2100 suggests the impacts will vary starkly between regions.

It expects more flooding in northern countries like the United Kingdom, which is still affected by the October storms.

By contrast, parts of southern Europe may warm so much that their tourist industry suffers. And more than half of all Alpine glaciers could disappear this century.

The report, funded by the European Union, is Europe's contribution to the third assessment of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is to be published in mid-2001.

Worse for south

It is the product of the Europe Acacia project (A Concerted Action towards a Comprehensive Impacts and Adaptations Assessment for the EU).

The report concludes that:

  • annual European temperatures will warm at a rate of between 0.1 and 0.4 degrees Celsius each decade;
  • cold winters will become much rarer by the 2020s and almost non-existent by the 2080s;
  • by then, almost every summer will be hotter than the hottest summer experienced once a decade at the moment;
  • rain and snowfall will increase in northern Europe by 1-2% each decade, while southern Europe will experience rather smaller decreases;
  • global-average sea rises by the 2050s will amount to somewhere between 13 and 68 cm;
  • southern Europe will come off worse than the north of the continent.
The report also says "it is likely that intense precipitation events will increase in frequency, especially in winter".

It expects an increase in the risk of summer drought in central and southern Europe, and thinks it possible that gale frequencies will increase.

Growing seasons

The report says the mean annual temperature in Europe has already risen by about 0.8 degrees C during the 20th Century, with 1990-99 the warmest decade recorded.

Matterhorn AP
Many Alpine glaciers could vanish
Since 1900, precipitation over northern Europe has increased by 10 to 40%, while parts of the south have dried by up to 20%.

And since the early 1960s, the average growing season has lengthened by about 10 days.

The report also warns that the gulf stream faces risks associated with warming temperatures that might lead to its slowing down and possibly to more radical climate change induced by shifts in the thermohaline circulation.

Other probable consequences of changing climate foreseen by the report include both an increased flood risk and more severe water shortages; more avalanches and rockslides; and poorer soil quality.

Some will gain

It says fewer tourists may be willing to risk Mediterranean heatwaves or unreliable Alpine snowfalls, and so northern European tourism could grow.

Ibiza BBC
The Mediterranean may lose its appeal
There could be greater risks to human health, in some cases from the spread of pests, and possible extinctions of wild species.

But the report makes it clear that there will be gains as well as losses.

Although more energy will be needed for cooling, less will be used in heating. The net productivity of ecosystems and of most crops is likely to increase, and northern Europe's commercial forests will grow faster.

Transport will face problems, but will gain in western Europe from a reduction in frost and snow. Demands on the insurance industry will rocket, but the report says it can go a long way to adapt.

Storing up change

It says global warming has major implications for Europe's policies of development and environmental management.

The lead author of the report is Professor Martin Parry, director of the Jackson Environment Institute at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

He told BBC News Online: "We need two strings to our bow in tackling climate change.

"Not only do we have to bring down emissions of greenhouse gases. We also have to put our energy and imagination into adapting to what it brings.

"All the evidence is that climate change is stored up in the system, whatever we do about emissions."

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See also:

28 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'worse than feared'
03 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Climate feels the Sun's effects
18 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Climate change warning
10 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Climate disaster possible by 2100
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