Research

Bracing for Climate Change

Bracing for Climate Change

Newcastle University experts are identifying future changes in extreme weather events on cities

Bracing for Climate Change

Researchers at Newcastle University, UK are using climate models to identify future changes in flooding, droughts and heatwaves affecting European cities. The landmark study shows that, from 2050-2100, the incidence of extreme weather will exceed previous predictions. Using projections from all available climate models, the team published three possible futures: low, medium and high impact scenarios. In each scenario, the study of 571 cities predicted a worsening of heatwaves, increasing drought conditions and an increase in river flooding.

"Our analysis provides, for the first time, comparable information for different impacts and cities that can be used to prioritise national and European research investments on impacts of climate change” says Dr Selma Guerreiro, lead author of the study “but they should be complemented by site specific assessments for detailed design and planning on how cities adapt to climate change.”

The study identified a likely increase in heatwaves across Europe, with predictions that Stockholm and Rome could see the greatest increase in actual numbers of heatwave days. Elsewhere, Prague and Vienna could see the greatest increase in maximum temperatures during future heatwaves, with increases of as much as 8°C to 14°C in some central European cities.

Changes in droughts and floods vary between the three scenarios. In the low impact scenario (the ‘optimistic scenario’), drought conditions intensify in southern European cities while river flooding worsens in cities in the northwest. While for the high impact scenario, almost every European city could see worse droughts and floods.

Among the top capital cities predicted to face increases in the frequency and magnitude of droughts are Lisbon and Madrid, while Athens, Nicosia, Valleta and Sofia are in the top for increases in both drought and heatwaves.

Of the European capitals, Dublin, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius and Zagreb are likely to experience the most extreme rise in flooding. For the high impact scenario, several European cities could see more than 80% increases on peak river flows, including Santiago de Compostela, Braga and Derry/Londonderry.

“We are already seeing at first hand the implications of extreme weather events in cities in Europe and around the world,” says Professor Richard Dawson, co-author and lead investigator of the study. “This research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions.”

 

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