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Scientific article
Open access
English

21st century climate change in the European Alps—A review

Published inScience of the total environment, vol. 493, p. 1138-1151
Publication date2014
Abstract

Reliable estimates of future climate change in the Alps are relevant for large parts of the European society. At the sametime, the complex Alpine region poses considerable challenges to climatemodels,which translate to uncertainties in the climate projections. Against this background, the present study reviews the state-of-knowledge about 21st century climate change in the Alps based on existing literature and additional analyses. In particular, it explicitly considers the reliability and uncertainty of climate projections. Results showthat besides Alpine temperatures, also precipitation, global radiation, relative humidity, and closely related impacts like floods, droughts, snow cover, and natural hazards will be affected by global warming. Under the A1B emission scenario, about 0.25 °Cwarming per decade until themid of the 21st century and accelerated 0.36 °C warming per decade in the second half of the century is expected. Warming will probably be associated with changes in the seasonality of precipitation, global radiation, and relative humidity, and more intense precipitation extremes and flooding potential in the colder part of the year. The conditions of currently record breaking warm or hot winter or summer seasons, respectively, may become normal at the end of the 21st century, and there is indication for droughts to become more severe in the future. Snow cover is expected to drastically decrease below 1500–2000 m and natural hazards related to glacier and permafrost retreat are expected to become more frequent. Such changes in climatic parameters and related quantities will have considerable impact on ecosystems and society and will challenge their adaptive capabilities.

Keywords
  • Climate change
  • Alpine region
  • Extremes
  • Snow
  • Drought
  • Natural hazards
Funding
  • European Commission - Assessment of climatic change and impacts on the quantity and quality of water [212250]
Citation (ISO format)
GOBIET, Andreas et al. 21st century climate change in the European Alps—A review. In: Science of the total environment, 2014, vol. 493, p. 1138–1151. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.07.050
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Article (Accepted version)
accessLevelPublic
Identifiers
ISSN of the journal0048-9697
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