Europe's cities face more extreme weather than previously thought

By Robert Lyons on 21st February 2018

New research, by Newcastle University, UK, has for the first time analysed changes in flooding, droughts and heatwaves for all European cities using all climate models.

Published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters, the study shows:

  • a worsening of heatwaves for all 571 cities
  • increasing drought conditions, particularly in southern Europe
  • an increase in river flooding, especially in north-western European cities
  • for the worst projections, increases in all hazards for most European cities
  • Cork, Derry, Waterford, Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow, Chester and Aberdeen the worst hit cities in the British Isles for river flooding
  • Even in the most optimistic case, 85% of UK cities with a river -- including London -- are predicted to face increased river flooding

Using projections from all available climate models (associated with the high emission scenario RCP8.5 which implies a 2.6°C to 4.8°C increase in global temperature), the team showed results for three possible futures which they called the low, medium and high impact scenarios.

The study shows that even the most optimistic of these -- the low impact scenario -- predicts both the number of heatwave days and their maximum temperature will increase for all European cities.

Southern European cities will see the biggest increases in the number of heatwave days, while central European cities will see the greatest increase in temperature during heatwaves -- between 2°C to 7°C for the low scenario and 8°C to 14°C for the high scenario.

For changes in droughts and floods, the cities which are affected depend on the scenario. For the low impact scenario, drought conditions only intensify in southern European cities while river flooding only worsens in north-western ones.