Droughts Could Economically Wreck Southern Europe By 2100: Study Predicts High Costs Of Global Warming

By Ajit Jha on January 9, 2014 9:56 AM EST

Dry riverbed
A new study predicts that riverbeds all over Europe — and especially in the south — will dry up significantly by 2100 due to global warming. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The latest climate change study predicts severe and persistent droughts in Europe a century down the line. Drought is not just environmentally threatening but is also severely damaging to the economy and perhaps to society as well. New research, published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), claims that drought has already cost Europe over 100 billion euros in the last three decades, and predicts that by the turn of the century, things will only get worse

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The researchers relied on analysis of climate and hydrological models under different scenarios to explain possible evolutions up to 2100, according to Dr. Luc Feyen, a hydrologist at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and coauthor of the paper. "Climate and water use models then translate the greenhouse gas concentrations and water requirement into future climate and water consumption projections," Feyen said.

With the help of these projected conditions, the scientists could prepare a hydrological model explaining the flow of water on Earth. They could then evaluate the change in severity and magnitude of drought conditions over the 21st century by running this model until 2100 for all river basins in Europe.

The climate change, according to the research, will lead to a drastically deduced supply of water in Europe's river basins. "An increasing demand for water, following a growing population and intensive use of water for irrigation and industry, will result in even stronger reductions in river flow levels," said Giovanni Forzieri, a researcher in climate risk management at the JRC and lead author of the study.

The authors of the study attempted to identify which regions would most severely be impacted by long-lasting droughts due to increasing temperatures and water consumption. The worst impacts, according to the study, will be felt in the Iberian Peninsula, south of France, Italy, and the Balkans. In these parts of Europe, temperatures are expected to increase by as much as 5 percent, according to the authors. In these areas, water deficiency may end up as high as 80 percent, while minimum flow levels in stream and river could be lowered by up to 40 percent, the study claimed.

But the entire world is at risk: compared to 1961, the average global temperature will rise by 3.4 percent by 2100, according to predictions made in the study. Higher temperatures will worsen droughts by reducing water supply, apart from already depleted water content due to evaporation from trees, soil, and water bodies. "The results of this study emphasize the urgency of sustainable water resource management that is able to adapt to these potential changes in the hydrological system to minimize the negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts," Forzieri concluded.

Above image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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