Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Europe’s Cities Face a Hotter Century

Climate
Madrid, Spain. iStock

By Tim Radford

Europe's cities are about to bake. The worst-case scenario for ever-hotter temperatures now suggests that later this century the Austrian city of Innsbruck—for example—could be subjected to heatwaves 14°C hotter than any in the past.

Altogether more than 400 cities could under such circumstances expect heatwaves at least 10°C hotter than any today. Droughts in Europe could be 14 times worse than any droughts experienced today.


And some of Europe's rivers could experience peak flows 80 percent higher than any today, which means ever-greater flood hazards, in particular for north-west European cities.

Three Europeans out of four live in cities. By 2050, this proportion will be even higher: 82 percent will have moved to urban centers.

Researchers report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they examined the trends for all 571 cities in Europe's urban audit database and simulated the outcome of a range of climate predictions.

Hotter Heatwaves

They found that, as humans burn ever more fossil fuels to release ever higher levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, to stoke yet further global warming and trigger catastrophic climate change, all 571 cities will experience ever greater heatwaves: that is, three consecutive days and nights at which temperatures are about as high as they have ever been for that city.

In a best-case scenario—one in which nations switch to renewable energy sources—the highest increases in temperature extremes could be between 2°C and 7°C: the Finnish city of Helsinki can expect to see heatwaves of perhaps 1.5°C.

In the worst instance, temperatures over the Gulf of Finland could reach 8°C higher than any ever recorded and others—Innsbruck is cited as an example—could stifle in summer heatwaves 14°C hotter than any in the past.

Heat is a killer: an extended heatwave in 2003 claimed 70,000 lives in western Europe. In 2010 a heatwave in eastern Europe and Russia is estimated to have caused 55,000 extra deaths. But with extremes of heat, there will also be extremes of rainfall. Between 1998 and 2009, floods in Europe claimed 1,126 deaths and cost at least €52 billion (£46bn) in insured losses. More rain is on the way in north-western Europe, where 85 percent of UK cities with a river are expected to face more flooding, even in the most hopeful outcome.

Drought could be even more devastating in southern Europe: In the best circumstances, droughts in the southern Iberian peninsula will be twice as severe as they were in the last half of the last century.

In the worst case, 98 percent of European cities could see damaging droughts, while in southern Europe, droughts could be 14 times more severe than now.

"Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond breaking point," said Selma Guerreiro, of the University of Newcastle, who led the research.

"Furthermore, most cities have considerable changes in more than one hazard which highlights the substantial challenge cities face in managing climate risks."

Ample Warning

None of this should be of any great surprise to either climate scientists or European city chiefs. Over recent years, teams of researchers have issued general European warnings of rain and heat extremes, and of shorter winters, earlier and more severe floods and greater risks to life and property.

Researchers have also looked at the detailed forecasts for individual cities: They know that higher sea levels impose higher risks of flooding and that extremes of weather offer greater dangers. They have even calculated the potential costs for Europe's seaside cities from Rotterdam to Istanbul.

What distinguishes the latest study is the detail: it names cities that could be expected to experience the worst flooding in the worst-case scenario—Cork and Waterford in Ireland, Santiago de Compostela in Spain—and those that could expect the worst droughts: Malaga, for instance, and Almeria in Spain.

Stockholm and Rome could expect the greatest increase in numbers of heatwave days, while Prague and Vienna could see the greatest increases in maximum temperatures.

Urgent Need

Lisbon and Madrid lead the league table of capital cities for increases in frequency and magnitude of droughts. Athens, Nicosia, Valletta and Sofia could be the European capital cities most at risk from both heat extremes and drought.

"The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions," said Richard Dawson, a co-author, and professor of earth systems engineering at Newcastle University.

"We are already seeing at first hand the implications of extreme weather events in our capital cities. In Paris the Seine rose more than 4 meters above its normal water level.

"And as Cape Town prepares for its taps to run dry, this analysis highlights that such climate events are feasible in European cities too."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less
World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less