European Environment Agency (EEA)

Climate change and biodiversity


Courtesy of Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

On average, global temperatures on land have risen by 0.8 °C compared with pre‑industrial times. European land areas have warmed up more rapidly, however, increasing by more than 1.2 °C so far (IPCC, 2007), with a further increase of
1.0–5.5 °C expected by the end of the 21st century (Christensen et al., 2007).

Already southern Europe has experienced extremely dry weather conditions, with rainfall decreasing by up to 20 % during the 20th century. In northern European countries, meanwhile, precipitation increased by 10–40 %. The frequency of extreme
weather conditions is expected to increase (EEA‑JRC‑WHO, 2008).

Regional average sea levels have risen by between 0.3 mm/year and 2.8 mm/year during the 20th century, with the global average increasing 1.7 mm/year (Church and White, 2006).

Europe's snow cover has decreased by 1.3 % per decade during the past 40 years. And the average duration of ice cover on lakes and rivers in the northern hemisphere has been decreasing at a rate of 12 days per hundred years (EEA‑JRC‑WHO, 2008).

In accordance with the observed changes in precipitation and temperature there is some evidence of climate‑induced changes in annual river flow and the seasonality of flow in Europe during the 20th century, with an average increase in the north (Lindström and Bergström, 2004; Milly et al., 2005) and a decrease in the south (Milly et al., 2005). However, these changes are also influenced by human interventions in the catchment, such as groundwater abstraction, irrigation, river regulation, land‑use changes and urbanisation.

Climate change has increased the frequency or severity of droughts in some regions, although there is no overall trend for Europe as a whole.

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