By the end of this century, droughts in Europe are expected to be more frequent and intense due to climate change and increased water use. These results, by researchers from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the University of Kassel in Germany, are published today in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Dry river bed in a peat upland in Northern England
Catherine Moody, distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu
“Our research shows that many river basins, especially in southern parts of Europe, are likely to become more prone to periods of reduced water supply due to climate change,” says Giovanni Forzieri, a researcher in climate risk management at the JRC and lead author of the study. “An increasing demand for water, following a growing population and intensive use of water for irrigation and industry, will result in even stronger reductions in river flow levels.”
Drought is a major natural disaster that can have considerable impacts on society, the environment and the economy. In Europe alone, the cost of drought over the past three decades has amounted to over 100 billion euros. In this study, the researchers wanted to find out if and where in Europe increasing temperatures and intensive water consumption could make future droughts more severe and long-lasting.
To do this, they analysed climate and hydrological models under different scenarios. “Scenarios are narratives of possible evolutions – up to 2100 in this study – of our society that we use to quantify future greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption by different sectors,” explains Luc Feyen, a hydrologist at JRC and co-author of the paper. “Climate and water-use models then translate the greenhouse gas concentrations and water requirement into future climate and water consumption projections.”
The scientists then used these projected conditions to drive a hydrological model that mimics the distribution and flow of water on Earth. By running this model until 2100 for all river basins in Europe, they could evaluate how drought conditions may change in magnitude and severity over the 21st century.
The research shows that southern parts of Europe will be the most affected. Stream and river minimum flow levels may be lowered by up to 40% and periods of water deficiency may increase up to 80% due to climate change alone in the Iberian Peninsula, south of France, Italy and the Balkans.
Higher temperatures not only result in more water being evaporated from soils, trees and bodies of water, but will also lead to more frequent and prolonged dry spells, reducing water supply and worsening droughts. The emission scenario used in the study predicts that average global temperature will increase by up to 3.4°C by 2100, relative to the period 1961–1990. But the authors warn that the warming projected for Europe, particularly its southern regions, is even stronger. “Over the Iberian Peninsula, for example, summer mean temperature is projected to increase by up to 5°C by the end of this century,” says Feyen.
In addition to climate warming, intensive water use will further aggravate drought conditions by 10-30% in southern Europe, as well as in the west and centre of the continent, and in some parts of the UK.
“The results of this study emphasise the urgency of sustainable water resource management that is able to adapt to these potential changes in the hydrological system to minimise the negative socio-economic and environmental impacts,” Forzieri concludes.
Please mention the name of the publication (Hydrology and Earth System Sciences) if reporting on this story and, if reporting online, include a link to the paper or to the journal website (http://www.hydrology-and-earth-system-sciences.net).*More information*
The scientific article is available online, free of charge, from the publication date onwards, at http://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/recent_papers.html. *To obtain a copy of the paper before the publication date, please email Bárbara Ferreira at firstname.lastname@example.org.*
The discussion paper (before peer review) and reviewers comments is available at http://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci-discuss.net/10/10719/2013/hessd-10-10719-2013.html
The team is composed of Giovanni Forzieri (Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Directorate–General Joint Research Centre [JRC], European Commission, Ispra, Italy), Luc Feyen (JRC), Rodrigo Rojas (JRC), Martina Flörke (Center for Environmental Systems Research [CESR], University of Kassel, Germany), Florian Wimmer (CESR) and Alessandra Bianchi (JRC).
The European Geosciences Union (www.egu.eu) is Europe’s premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. It is a non-profit interdisciplinary learned association of scientists founded in 2002. The EGU has a current portfolio of 15 diverse scientific journals, which use an innovative open access format, and organises a number of topical meetings, and education and outreach activities. Its annual General Assembly is the largest and most prominent European geosciences event, attracting over 11,000 scientists from all over the world. The meeting’s sessions cover a wide range of topics, including volcanology, planetary exploration, the Earth’s internal structure and atmosphere, climate, energy, and resources. The 2014 EGU General Assembly is taking place is Vienna, Austria from 27 April to 2 May 2014. For information regarding the press centre at the meeting and media registration, please check http://media.egu.eu.
If you wish to receive our press releases via email, please use the Press Release Subscription Form at http://www.egu.eu/news/subscribe/. Subscribed journalists and other members of the media receive EGU press releases under embargo (if applicable) 24 hours in advance of public dissemination.*Contact*
(Release on the EGU website)
Dr. Bárbara Ferreira | idw
Study offers new insights on hurricane intensity, pollution transport
03.08.2015 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Glaciers melt faster than ever
03.08.2015 | Universität Zürich
Glacier decline in the first decade of the 21st century has reached a historical record, since the onset of direct observations. Glacier melt is a global phenomenon and will continue even without further climate change. This is shown in the latest study by the World Glacier Monitoring Service under the lead of the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
The World Glacier Monitoring Service, domiciled at the University of Zurich, has compiled worldwide data on glacier changes for more than 120 years. Together...
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
03.08.2015 | Materials Sciences
03.08.2015 | Life Sciences
03.08.2015 | Life Sciences