CR 31:51-58 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr031051

Precipitation extremes in the changing climate of Europe

Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz1,2,*, Maciej Radziejewski1,3, Iwona Pinskwar1

1Research Centre for Agricultural and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of Sciences, Bukowska 19, 60809 Poznan, Poland
2Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
3Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Adam Mickiewicz University, Umultowska 87, 61-614 Poznan, Poland

ABSTRACT: Several episodes of extreme precipitation or extreme lack of precipitation (and high temperature) leading to dramatic and high-impact floods and droughts have occurred in Europe in recent years. Climate scenarios suggest that problems of too little or too much water may become more severe in the future. Using data from the Hadley Centre’s HadRM3 model, this paper analyzes future changes in the characteristics of intense precipitation (mean daily precipitation amounts and number of days with intense precipitation in a year) and the duration of dry (also dry and hot) spells over the European continent, comparing the time periods of 1961–1990 and 2070–2099. The potential for intense precipitation is likely to increase in the warmer climate of the future, contributing to the growth of flood hazard in areas where inundations are typically triggered by heavy rain. The projected number of days with intense precipitation and the maximum daily precipitation are likely to increase over much of Europe, especially in the central and northern parts. According to projections, ‘dry and hot’ extremes may become more severe for most of Europe. The areas already affected by water stress in the present climate (e.g. southern Europe) are expected to experience even more severe conditions.

KEY WORDS: Precipitation · Intense precipitation · Floods · Droughts · Climate projections

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