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

C1.2.2 European heatwave impact on the agricultural sector (Chapter 5, Box 5.1)

Europe experienced a particularly extreme climate event during the summer of 2003, with temperatures up to 6°C above long-term means, and precipitation deficits up to 300 mm (see Trenberth et al., 2007). A record drop in crop yield of 36% occurred in Italy for maize grown in the Po valley, where extremely high temperatures prevailed (Ciais et al., 2005). In France, compared to 2002, the maize grain crop was reduced by 30% and fruit harvests declined by 25%. Winter crops (wheat) had nearly achieved maturity by the time of the heatwave and therefore suffered less yield reduction (21% decline in France) than summer crops (e.g., maize, fruit trees and vines) undergoing maximum foliar development (Ciais et al., 2005). Forage production was reduced on average by 30% in France and hay and silage stocks for winter were partly used during the summer (COPA COGECA, 2003a). Wine production in Europe was the lowest in 10 years (COPA COGECA, 2003b). The (uninsured) economic losses for the agriculture sector in the European Union were estimated at ¤13 billion, with the largest losses in France (¤4 billion) (Sénat, 2004).

C1.2.3 Industry, settlement and society: impacts of the 2003 heatwave in Europe (Chapter 7, Box 7.1)

The Summer 2003 heatwave in western Europe affected settlements and economic services in a variety of ways. Economically, this extreme weather event created stress on health, water supplies, food storage and energy systems. In France, electricity became scarce, construction productivity fell, and the cold storage systems of 25-30% of all food-related establishments were found to be inadequate (Létard et al., 2004). The punctuality of the French railways fell to 77%, from 87% twelve months previously, incurring ¤1 to ¤3 million (US$1.25 to 3.75 million) in additional compensation payments, an increase of 7-20% compared with the usual annual total. Sales of clothing were 8.9% lower than usual in August, but sales of bottled water increased by 18%, and of ice-cream by 14%. The tourist industry in northern France benefitted, but in the south it suffered (Létard et al., 2004).

Impacts of the heatwave were mainly health- and health-service-related (see Section C1.2.4); but they were also associated with settlement and social conditions, from inadequate climate conditioning in buildings to the fact that many of the dead were elderly people, left alone while their families were on vacation. Electricity demand increased with the high heat levels; but electricity production was undermined by the facts that the temperature of rivers rose, reducing the cooling efficiency of thermal power plants (conventional and nuclear) and that flows of rivers were diminished; six power plants were shut down completely (Létard et al., 2004). If the heatwave had continued, as much as 30% of national power production would have been at risk (Létard et al., 2004). The crisis illustrated how infrastructure may be unable to deal with complex, relatively sudden environmental challenges (Lagadec, 2004).