Study highlights the urgent need to adapt urban areas to cope with floods, droughts and heat waves
Major British cities, including Glasgow, Wrexham, Aberdeen and Chester, could be much more affected by climate change than previously thought, according to new research.
The study, conducted by the University of Newcastle, looked at changes in floods, droughts and heat waves in all European cities using all climate models.
Looking at the impact for the year 2050-2100, the team produced results for three possible outcomes: low, medium, and high impact scenarios.
But even the most optimistic case showed that 85% of UK cities with a river, including London, would face increased flooding.
In the high impact scenario, some cities and towns in the UK and Ireland could see the amount of water per flood as much as double. The worst hit is Cork, which could see 115% more flood water, while Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow and Chester could see increases of more than 75%.
The increase in the severity of the expected impact came after the team, in the first of its kind, examined all three climate hazards together in the largest study of its kind ever conducted.
After about three years of analyzing data in hundreds of cities in Europe, they found that each result was worse than previously thought.
Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Derry and Chester were the UK cities and towns most affected by river flooding, and Dublin, Cork and Waterford were the worst in Ireland.
All 571 cities studied saw a worsening in heat waves, and the high-impact scenario predicted that southern Europe would experience droughts 14 times worse than current ones.
Lead author Selma Guerreiro said: “Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond the breaking point.
"Additionally, most cities have significant changes in more than one hazard, highlighting the substantial challenge cities face in managing climate risks."
While southern European cities saw the largest increase in the number of heat wave days, Central European cities saw the largest temperature rise during heat waves, ranging from 2 ° C to 7 ° C for the low scenario and 8 ° C to 14 ° C for the high scenario.
A co-author, Professor Richard Dawson, said: “The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions.
“We are already seeing firsthand the implications of extreme weather events in our capital cities.
“In Paris, the Seine rose more than four meters above its normal water level. And as Cape Town prepares for its taps to run dry, this analysis highlights that such weather events are feasible in European cities as well.
Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the research found that the European capitals hardest hit by the floods were Dublin, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius and Zagreb.
In the high-impact scenario, several European cities saw increases of more than 80% in peak river flows.
Stockholm and Rome could see the biggest increase in the number of heat wave days, while Prague and Vienna could see the biggest increase in maximum temperatures during heat waves.
Lisbon and Madrid are in the main capital cities for increases in the frequency and magnitude of droughts, while Athens, Nicosia, Valletta and Sofia could experience the worst increases in both drought and heat waves.
Next month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will hold its first scientific conference on cities and climate change, after recognizing the important role that appointments should play in tackling climate change.
More than 75% of the EU population currently lives in urban areas, and this percentage is expected to increase to 82% by 2050.
And the impact is already being felt, as between 1998 and 2009 floods in Europe caused 1,126 deaths and at least € 52 billion in insured economic losses.
Dawson, who is on the conference's scientific steering committee, said: “A key goal for this conference is to bring together and catalyze action by researchers, policy makers and industry to address the urgent issue of preparing our cities, their populations, buildings and infrastructure for climate change “.
The team used projections from all available models associated with the RCP8.5 high emissions scenario, implying a 2.6C to 4.8C increase in global temperature.
They found that the British Isles have some of the worst overall flood projections, with the high scenario predicting that half of UK cities could see at least a 50% increase in peak river flows.
Original article (in English)