Climate and Climate Impact Scenarios for Europe in a Warmer World

J. M. Lough Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ U.K.

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T. M. L. Wigley Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ U.K.

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J. P. Palutikof Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ U.K.

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Abstract

Scenarios for Europe in a warmer world, such as may result from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, have been constructed using the early 20th century warming as an analogue. Mean temperature, Precipitation and pressure patterns for the period 1934–53 were compared with those for 1901–20. These are the warmest and cooler twenty-year periods this century based on Northern Hemisphere annual mean surface air temperature data, differing by 0.4°C. The climate scenarios show marked subregional scale differences from season to season, and individual season scenarios often show little similarity to the annual scenario. Temperature scenarios show warming for the annual mean and for spring, summer and autumn. The largest positive changes are found in higher latitudes. Winters over a large part of Europe are actually cooler and show greater interannual variability during the warmer period. These changes appear to be associated with a greater frequency of blocking activity. Precipitation changes occur in both directions in all seasons. There is, however, an overall tendency for spring and summer to be drier and autumn and winter to be wetter.

The climate scenarios are used to construct scenarios of the impact of a global warming on energy consumption and agriculture. Cooler winters alone would imply greater energy demand for space heating, but this is largely offset by warmer temperatures in spring and autumn which reduce the length of the heating season. Increased temperature variability combined with a general cooling during winter over north and northwestern Europe suggests a greater frequency of severe winters, and thus larger fluctuations in the demand for heating energy. The impact on agriculture is difficult to assess because of the complexity of crop-climate relationships and because of the importance of nonclimatic factors associated with technological change and, perhaps, with enhanced photosynthesis due to increased carbon dioxide concentrations. In northern latitudes, the increase in the length of the growing season would appear to be favorable for agriculture, but warmer summers drier springs and wetter autumns would be less favorable. A specific study was made of the effect of two different climate scenarios on crop yields in England and Wales with regression models constructed using a principal components regression technique. Most crops showed a decrease in yield for both warm-world scenarios, with largest decreases for hay yield and least effect on wheat yield. A similar regression analysis of French wine quality showed an improvement in the quality of Bordeaux and Champagne in a warmer world.

Abstract

Scenarios for Europe in a warmer world, such as may result from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, have been constructed using the early 20th century warming as an analogue. Mean temperature, Precipitation and pressure patterns for the period 1934–53 were compared with those for 1901–20. These are the warmest and cooler twenty-year periods this century based on Northern Hemisphere annual mean surface air temperature data, differing by 0.4°C. The climate scenarios show marked subregional scale differences from season to season, and individual season scenarios often show little similarity to the annual scenario. Temperature scenarios show warming for the annual mean and for spring, summer and autumn. The largest positive changes are found in higher latitudes. Winters over a large part of Europe are actually cooler and show greater interannual variability during the warmer period. These changes appear to be associated with a greater frequency of blocking activity. Precipitation changes occur in both directions in all seasons. There is, however, an overall tendency for spring and summer to be drier and autumn and winter to be wetter.

The climate scenarios are used to construct scenarios of the impact of a global warming on energy consumption and agriculture. Cooler winters alone would imply greater energy demand for space heating, but this is largely offset by warmer temperatures in spring and autumn which reduce the length of the heating season. Increased temperature variability combined with a general cooling during winter over north and northwestern Europe suggests a greater frequency of severe winters, and thus larger fluctuations in the demand for heating energy. The impact on agriculture is difficult to assess because of the complexity of crop-climate relationships and because of the importance of nonclimatic factors associated with technological change and, perhaps, with enhanced photosynthesis due to increased carbon dioxide concentrations. In northern latitudes, the increase in the length of the growing season would appear to be favorable for agriculture, but warmer summers drier springs and wetter autumns would be less favorable. A specific study was made of the effect of two different climate scenarios on crop yields in England and Wales with regression models constructed using a principal components regression technique. Most crops showed a decrease in yield for both warm-world scenarios, with largest decreases for hay yield and least effect on wheat yield. A similar regression analysis of French wine quality showed an improvement in the quality of Bordeaux and Champagne in a warmer world.

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