Europe will soon be hit by deadly, “once-in-a-century” extreme weather events every year, a study has found.
Severe wildfires, river floods and windstorms will affect certain areas of the continent annually by 2050, according to research published in the journal Climatic Changes.
The researchers suggest key hotspots will emerge along coastlines and in floodplains in southern and western Europe, which are often highly populated and economically pivotal.
Europe’s entire Mediterranean seaboard will be confronted annually with extreme droughts, coastal floods or heatwaves by the end of the century, the study adds.
Giovanni Forzieri, lead author and a scientist at the European Commission’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability, said: “This should be a warning to governments and institutions tasked with preparing solutions and adaptation strategies.”
“In Spain, you will see at least two hazards every year by 2080 that – in the current climate – only show up once in 100 years.”
The projections are based on climate models which assume Earth’s surface temperatures will rise by about two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era benchmark by 2050.
The world’s first global climate agreement – agreed by 170 countries in Paris last December – set a target of capping temperature increases at “well below” two degrees Celsius. But some scientists argue that at the current rate of fossil fuel consumption, the planet is set for an increase of four degrees or higher.
There was no “comprehensive picture on how multiple climate extremes will evolve during the 21st century,” Forzieri said at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, where he presented the findings.