Parts of Europe heating faster than global average

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Denbies Vineyard in Surrey: faster warming has resulted in better harvests in recent years

Denbies Vineyard in Surrey, UK: higher temperatures have meant better harvests in recent years
Image: Peter Trimming

By Paul Brown

Climate change hits different regions in different ways and, as Europe’s climate warms, some areas are already having to adapt.  New crops are being planted and there’s a call for buildings that don’t overheat in warm weather.

LONDON, 12 September - Temperatures in some parts of Europe have already increased by more than 2C in the last 60 years with changes in local climate allowing new crops to be grown.

An example is the new wine growing area in southern England, which this year is celebrating its best ever grape harvest. Hundreds of acres of new vineyards are being planted to take advantage of the changing climate.

Many parts of Europe are experiencing more hotter days in the summer and fewer very cold nights in winter. Overall the increase is four times greater than the global average over the 60 year period.

Researchers at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in collaboration with the University of Warwick, show that not all regions are warming at the same pace.

The results of their research, which appear in a study in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, indicate that the hottest 5% of days in summer have warmed fastest in a band from southern England and northern France to Denmark. In eastern Spain and central Italy there has been a general warming in all seasons.

In some areas, Norway and Sweden for example, the changes have been much smaller in summer and in some cases there have been no measurable differences. However nights in the depths of winter have been getting warmer – by more than 2C in both countries.

Professor Sandra Chapman, one of the researchers, said: “It is common to discuss climate change in terms of changes in global average temperatures but these can be far from people’s perceptions of climate change. The results in this paper begin to provide a picture of how local climate has been changing across Europe. It is a picture which is closer to that experienced by individuals.”

Among other results the study notes changes in the frequency of nights that fall below freezing in winter, and days which rise above 28C in summer. These, says the study, are two thresholds that are important for many impacts such as the availability of snow in ski resorts, building design, and labour productivity.

Dr. David Stainforth, the lead author of the report, said: “Climate is fundamentally the distributions of weather. Our results illustrate that the international goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to 2°C would involve far greater changes for some places and for some aspects of climate, and therefore for particular individuals, communities and industries.

“Changes in local climate pose challenges for decision makers across society not just when preparing for the climate of the future but even when planning for the climate of today.

“We need to design buildings so that they don’t overheat, decide which are the best crops to plant, and even plan for variations in large scale productivity. These would all benefit from knowledge of how the climate distribution has changed at particular locations. This work begins to provide such information.”

The World Meteorological Organisation and many national organisations, such as the UK Met Office, are investing substantially in the provision of information for governments and businesses to help them to adapt to climate change.

The study shows that even over relatively small areas the differences can be quite marked. For example, in the north east of England the number of night frosts in winter has gone down by more than 10%, a greater drop than elsewhere in the country. - Climate News Network