RealClimate logo

New report: Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016

Filed under: — rasmus @ 6 February 2017

Another climate report is out – what’s new? Many of the previous reports have presented updated status on the climate and familiar topics such as temperature, precipitation, ice, snow, wind, and storm activities.

The latest report Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016 from the European Environment Agency (EEA) also includes an assessment of hail, a weather phenomenon that is often associated with lightening (a previous report from EASAC from 2013 also covers hail).

Usually, there has not been a lot of information about hail, but that is improving. Still, the jury is still out when it comes to hail and climate change:

Despite improvements in data availability, trends and projections of hail events are still uncertain.

EEA 2016 report front cover

More importantly, the report contains important update on the state of the usual weather elements in Europe. I will not give a lengthy account of the scope of the report due to its wide range of topics, but rather give a brief list of some quotes to show some of the strongest conclusions:

  • “European land temperatures in the decade 2006–2015 were around 1.5 °C warmer than the pre‐industrial level, and they are projected to continue increasing by more than the global average temperature increase.”
  • “Heavy precipitation events have increased in several regions in Europe over recent decades, in particular in northern and north‐eastern Europe.”
  • “the probability of occurrence of various recent heat waves and other damaging extreme weather and climate events in Europe has substantially increased as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change”
  • “The vast majority of glaciers in the European glacial regions are in retreat.”
  • “Snow cover extent in the northern hemisphere has declined significantly since the 1920s, with most of the reductions occurring since 1980.”
  • “The severity and frequency of droughts appear to have increased in parts of Europe, in particular in southern Europe and south‐eastern Europe.”
  • “Earlier spring advancement is observed in many plant species, and the pollen season starts earlier and is longer.”
  • “Many species have changed their distribution range, generally northwards and uphill, and these trends are projected to continue.”
  • Some results, however, were more ambiguous such as long-term trends in wind speeds and storm statistics:

    Observations of wind storm location, frequency and intensity show considerable variability.

    The report also has a strong emphasis on hydrology, for which the status also is less clear-cut than the results for temperature and precipitation.

    River flows have generally increased in winter and decreased in summer, but with substantial regional and seasonal variation.

    Many rivers are regulated and it is therefore difficult to compare old records before such interventions with the modern situation. Other consequences and impacts of climate change beside hydrology include ecosystems, e.g.

    Changes in temperature cause significant shifts in the distribution of marine species towards the poles, but also in depth distribution.

    The report also discusses the effects climate change has on society such as health issues, agriculture, transport, energy, tourism, and the economy. It is meant to assist science-based decision-making, and there is a growing recognition of the costs connected to climate change:

    Climate‐related extreme events accounted for almost EUR 400 billion of economic losses in the EEA member countries over the period 1980−2013.

    ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’ presents a number of important climate indicators, and I think it’s good that the report discloses that the data also is accessible from the European portal CLIMATE-ADAPT. However, you will need to search for a little while within the portal before you can get a copy of the data. At least for some types of data, you would get to the (external) source after a few clicks (I didn’t check them all).

    The report provides a useful overview (Table 1.7) of the data availability for all the climate indicators discussed therein, and places them in the context with emissions scenarios and climate simulations on which the future projections are based. The overview suggests that the assessments rely on variable amounts of data and model simulations, and in most cases fairly small ensembles.

    The global climate models (GCMs) are for all intents and purposes able to simulate observed natural variations such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Both the NAO and the AMOC have a dominant influence on regional variations over Europe on time scales of a decade [1]. These fluctuations are ‘non-deterministic’ which means that we cannot give an accurate forecast of their exact future state.

    The statistical properties of these phenomena, however, are more readily predictable. We need sufficiently large samples to estimate the parameters which determine their statistical behavior. The objective is quantify the range of possible outcomes (and likelihoods) of such variations which come on top of the long-term changes caused by greenhouse gas forcings.

    A tricky question is whether the individual GCM simulation can be considered as an independent sample or whether there is a need to include many different types of models made up of different model components [2].

    The GCM results then need to be downscaled to provide more reliable details about the local climate. In some cases, the future projections for the local effects rely on several regional climate models (RCMs) but only a few GCMs (e.g. the projections for river flow involves 4 GCMs and 7 RCMs). The downscaling of these results are strictly not independent if they are based on the same GCM simulation because one GCM run provides the same description of the regional (“large-scale”) conditions.

    In other words, the results presented in ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’ represent uncertain estimates due to the reliance on a limited set of data. They give an indication of the direction of how things change, but are still not sufficient for providing a full account of the range of potential future outcomes.

    ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’ may be relevant to other continents than Europe, even if it has a regional focus. Many of the issues and weather phenomena are similar across the world, and Europe has one of the most comprehensive meteorological and hydrological observational networks in the world.


    1. C. Deser, R. Knutti, S. Solomon, and A.S. Phillips, "Communication of the role of natural variability in future North American climate", Nature Climate Change, vol. 2, pp. 775-779, 2012.
    2. B.M. Sanderson, R. Knutti, and P. Caldwell, "Addressing Interdependency in a Multimodel Ensemble by Interpolation of Model Properties", Journal of Climate, vol. 28, pp. 5150-5170, 2015.

    13 Responses to “New report: Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016”

    1. 1
      Mr. Know It All 2 says:

      That’s lightning, not lightening.

      When I was a kid in the Midwest in the 60s it hailed baseball or maybe softball sized hail. My folks kept some of it in the freezer until it had to be defrosted.

    2. 2
      Lynn says:

      RE hail, something interesting happened during Hurricane Emily (July 2005) as it went to Brownsville, TX. Huge hail balls came down causing lots of damage. The local weatherman said that was highly unusual, he had never heard of it during a hurricane (we live in a tropical/subtropical area).

      I posed the question on RealClimate in 2005 and one blogger said it was not unusual, but another person who seemed better to know what he was talking about said it was highly unusual.

      Also in 2012, March 29, McAllen, TX & vicinity had an extremely fierce and damaging hailstorm — some people had to have their rofs replaced. However, it was colder then (maybe in the 60s), not like in July 2005.

    3. 3
      Lynn says:

      Here’s some more info on how the March 2012 hailstorm was also highly unusual for the Rio Grande Valley:

      So, I’m guessing with CC we might be seeing more of these types of events — or they might be more severe.

      I should also mention many of the cars parked outside and in dealer lots were also severely damaged.

      It’s weird, but our brand new Volt gave us warning of the upcoming storm about an hour in advance — so we quickly cleared our garage and parked inside. By 7 pm when we were to show “The Revenge of the Electric Car” the weather had cleared to a light sprinkle, so we drove our Volt there as an exhibit.

    4. 4
      Ray Ladbury says:

      Growing up in Denver, you always knew who had just moved to the state or gotten a new car–they were the ones that didn’t have pockmarks from the hail.

    5. 5

      Guys, sorry if this veers off on to another subject, but what do you think of this:

      You’ve probably seen this, but it suggests a possible extinction event in 9 years time. Pretty alarming, and I am not a climate scientist, hence my question here.

      I love RealClimate by the way, just don’t get to read it as often as I would like unfortunately…

    6. 6
      Pat says:

      Yes and the only way to stop it is with Ocean Mechanical Thermal Energy Conversion. If you would like a blackboard tutorial on OMTEC I’ll be glad to show you scientists how this can work..But you guys harping on the same ole thing over and over is quite boring…

    7. 7
      Bill Henderson says:

      US CLIVAR, a US Climate Variability and Predictability Program, held a recent conference on Arctic Change and Its Influence on Mid-Latitude Climate and Weather Agenda
      with many interesting science perspectives on this super interesting topic.

      Can’t find any news stories or any coverage but there is a Poster display which you can access here

      Take a dip into even a few of these posters for not only a very relevant topic but for how science is done on a subject that mostly just gets ignored.

    8. 8
      Hank Roberts says:

      Robin Whitlock

      Carana et al. make up scary stories thinking scary stories will improve people’s behavior.

    9. 9
    10. 10
      Erik De Haan says:

      June 23, 2016 we had an extreme hailstorm in the southern part of the Netherlands. It caused extensive damage, horticulture, cars and Solar PV installations were among the victims. These youtube movies give a good illustration of the hailstorm and the consequences: and .

      The Dutch Metoffice (KNMI) gave a first analysis of the extreme situation. A supercell with hail as large as 7-10 cm, the largest stones recorded in 25 years (article in Dutch (

      Apart of the hailstorm on June 23, the month brought record precipitation to the south-east. Total estimated damage: 750 mln € (flooded agricultural lands with loss of crops and the damage from the hailstorm).

      A further rise in temperature could increase the risks of large hailstorms, which until now are quite rare in a temperate climate like the Netherlands. How much that increase will be, possibly twice as much, but with large uncertainties.

    11. 11
      Mr. Know It All 2 says:


      Hail storms like you describe are not unusual in the Midwest. They aren’t frequent, and they’re probably isolated, but they do happen.

    12. 12
      Thomas says:

      11 Mr. Knows Jack Shit says: Hail Storms aren’t frequent, and they’re probably isolated, but they do happen.

      As opposed to the lies which are happening 24/7/365 as the world keeps spinning on it’s axis flooded by the distortions, the gross disinformation and the delusional illogical commentaries by fools and idiots regarding AGW/CC science with their wild eyed conspiracy theories that climate science is a massive deceptive fraud upon the whole world to bring about a one world totalitarian government by mad leftie environmentalists and hippie anarchists high on mushies.

      Their cunning evil and mind control powers over pliable gullible people like say Gavin and 30,000 others in climate science is like wow, gosh, gee whiz weally incwedible.

      Yeah ‘Hail’ happens. It’s wike weally important to know that.

    13. 13
      Mal Adapted says:


      The latest report Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016 from the European Environment Agency (EEA)

      ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’ may be relevant to other continents than Europe, even if it has a regional focus.

      No kidding.
      Thanks for the post, Rasmus. It’s good to see Europe, at least, is publishing official documents like that one. What it might look like coming from the current US administration, is the stuff of nightmares.

      The Executive Summary is rather good IMO. Conclusions from climate science are stated concisely, but with complexities acknowledged. With a little searching-and-replacing, much of it applies equally well to the US.

      My favorite bullet (emphasis original):

      The magnitude of future climate change and its impacts from the middle of the century onwards depend on the effectiveness of global climate mitigation efforts.

      It’s a one-sentence climate model and policy guide.