IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

12.2 Current sensitivity/vulnerability

12.2.1 Climate factors and trends

The warming trend throughout Europe is well established (+0.90°C for 1901 to 2005; updated from Jones and Moberg, 2003). However, the recent period shows a trend considerably higher than the mean trend (+0.41°C/decade for the period 1979 to 2005; updated from Jones and Moberg, 2003). For the 1977 to 2000 period, trends are higher in central and north-eastern Europe and in mountainous regions, while lower trends are found in the Mediterranean region (Böhm et al., 2001; Klein Tank, 2004). Temperatures are increasing more in winter than summer (Jones and Moberg, 2003). An increase of daily temperature variability is observed during the period 1977 to 2000 due to an increase in warm extremes, rather than a decrease of cold extremes (Klein Tank et al., 2002; Klein Tank and Können, 2003).

Precipitation trends are more spatially variable. Mean winter precipitation is increasing in most of Atlantic and northern Europe (Klein Tank et al., 2002). In the Mediterranean area, yearly precipitation trends are negative in the east, while they are non-significant in the west (Norrant and Douguédroit, 2006). An increase in mean precipitation per wet day is observed in most parts of the continent, even in some areas which are becoming drier (Frich et al., 2002; Klein Tank et al., 2002; Alexander et al., 2006). Some of the European systems and sectors have shown particular sensitivity to recent trends in temperature and (to a lesser extent) precipitation (Table 12.1).

Table 12.1. Attribution of recent changes in natural and managed ecosystems to recent temperature and precipitation trends. See Chapter 1, Section 1.3 for additional data.

Region Observed change Reference 
Coastal and marine systems 
North-east Atlantic, North Sea Northward movement of plankton and fish Brander and Blom, 2003; Edwards and Richardson, 2004; Perry et al., 2005 
Terrestrial ecosystems 
Europe Upward shift of the tree line  Kullman, 2002; Camarero and Gutiérrez, 2004; Shiyatov et al., 2005; Walther et al., 2005a 
Europe Phenological changes (earlier onset of spring events and lengthening of the growing season); increasing productivity and carbon sink during 1950 to 1999 of forests (in 30 countries)  Menzel et al., 2006a Nabuurs et al., 2003, Shvidenko and Nilsson, 2003; Boisvenue and Running, 2006  
Alps Invasion of evergreen broad-leaved species in forests; upward shift of Viscum album Walther, 2004; Dobbertin et al., 2005 
Scandinavia Northward range expansion of Ilex aquifolium  Walter et al., 2005a 
Fennoscandian mountains and sub-Artic Disappearance of some types of wetlands (palsa mires[1]) in Lapland; increased species richness and frequency at altitudinal margin of plant life Klanderud and Birks, 2003; Luoto et al., 2004 
High mountains Change in high mountain vegetation types and new occurrence of alpine vegetation on high summits. Grabherr et al., 2001; Kullman, 2001; Pauli et al., 2001; Klanderud and Birks, 2003; Peñuelas and Boada, 2003; Petriccione, 2003; Sanz Elorza and Dana, 2003; Walther et al., 2005a 
Northern Europe Increased crop stress during hotter, drier summers; increased risk to crops from hail Viner et al., 2006 
Britain, southern Scandinavia Increased area of silage maize (more favourable conditions due to warmer summer temperatures)  Olesen and Bindi, 2004 
France Increases in growing season of grapevine; changes in wine quality Jones and Davis, 2000; Duchene and Schneider, 2005 
Germany Advance in the beginning of growing season for fruit trees Menzel, 2003; Chmielewski et al., 2004 
Russia Decrease in thickness and areal extent of permafrost and damages to infrastructure  Frauenfeld et al., 2004; Mazhitova et al., 2004 
Alps Decrease in seasonal snow cover (at lower elevation) Laternser and Schneebeli, 2003; Martin and Etchevers, 2005  
Europe Decrease in glacier volume and area (except some glaciers in Norway) Hoelzle et al., 2003 
North, East Movement of tick vectors northwards, and possibly to high altitudes Lindgren and Gustafson, 2001; Randolph, 2002; Beran et al., 2004; Danielova et al., 2004; Izmerov, 2004; Daniel et al., 2005; Materna et al., 2005 
Mediterranean, West, South  Northward movement of Visceral Leishmaniasis in dogs and humans [low confidence]  Molyneux, 2003; Kuhn et al., 2004; WHO, 2005; Lindgren and Naucke, 2006 
Mediterranean, Atlantic, Central Heatwave mortality  Fischer et al., 2004; Kosatsky, 2005; Nogueira et al., 2005, Pirard et al., 2005 
Atlantic, Central, East, North  Earlier onset and extension of season for allergenic pollen  Huynen and Menne, 2003; van Vliet et al., 2003; Beggs, 2004 [Chapter] 

  1. ^  Palsa mire: a type of peatland typified by high mounds with permanently frozen cores and separated by wet depressions; they form where the ground surface is only frozen for part of the year.