BaltCICA – Climate Change: Impacts, Costs and Adaptation in the Baltic Sea Region

Background and Goals

The project focuses on the most important upcoming issues that the climate change will cause in the densely populated coastal regions of the Baltic Sea. Changes due to flood events (along rivers but also during storm surges) as well as a rising sea level can affect the availability and, not least, the quality of water.

The BaltCICA project is not only for assessing the climate effects, but, above all, also for developing, testing and implementing suitable adaptive measures (structural measures as well as organizational and institutional measures). The lead partner of the project is the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and the partnership comprises 24 partners from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. The costs inherent in a rise in the sea level and increased flood risks are assessed at a pan-Baltic level and a concept is developed for the management of adaptations to the climate change. This is supported by a meta-evaluation and conceptualization of the results of the case studies. In addition, common approaches are applied for adaptation in different case studies.

Based on the findings from BaltCICA, applicable solutions are offered to other interested parties and supported by the Union of the Baltic Cities. For this, the project also builds on the results of the previous projects SEAREG and ASTRA.


Adaptation to climate change cannot be solved purely locally or in isolated attempts, but calls for cooperation and integrated approaches in the Baltic Sea region. The BaltCICA project with local and regional partners prepares regions and municipalities to come to terms with a changing climate and tackle the resulting tasks.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Hamburg
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
Natural spatial classification
  • coasts: North Sea-/Baltic Sea coasts
  • North-East German lowland

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

As a common basis for the entire Baltic Sea region, the dynamic, high-resolution regional model CLM (Climate Local Model) is used, together with the A1B and B1 scenarios. Modelling for the Baltic Sea itself is carried out with the biogeochemical 3D model ERGOM (IOW).

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
Further Parameters 

Dissolved ammonia, nitrates, phosphates and phytoplankton (diatoms, dinoflagellates and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria)).

Time horizon
  • long term = to 2100 and beyond
Further times 


Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

Due to the proximity to the sea and the relatively balanced and temperate coastal climate, the air temperature on the German Baltic coast will increase only moderately.

Nevertheless, by the year 2100 the ice and frost days will continue to decline, while the summer days and tropical nights will increase. The bathing season, which currently lasts about 100 days, could be extended by around 25 days by 2050 and 60 days by 2100, due to higher water temperatures. A general decline in precipitation is expected in the summer, even as far as causing water scarcity in individual sections of the coast, and an increase in the winter. On the Baltic Sea coast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a relative increase of the sea level of the Baltic of between 20 and 30cms is expected by 2100, for the foreign as the bodden coasts as well as the outer coastline. This would mean that beach areas, protective structures and the land areas they shield, particularly the Baltic Sea resorts, would be at risk, as would the safety of tourists and the resident population.

For the Hamburg metropolitan area in particular, an increased flood risk in the area of the Elbe river is expected (sea-level rise, precipitation change, wind set-ups). Already today, 140,000 workplaces are located in flood-prone areas of the city, 180,000 inhabitants live there, and goods worth some 10 billion Euros are stored there. At the same time, low-lying areas such as the HafenCity or the Elbe Island are to be newly developed.

The inevitable consequence of a rise in the sea level would be the acceleration of the average coastal erosion rate for both cliffed and alluvial coasts, even with unchanged gale patterns (currently 35 cms/year in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania). Large break-offs will occur more frequently on the cliffed coasts, while whole sections of the flat or alluvial coasts will be subjected to an increased level of erosion. More frequent occurrences of heavy storm surges would further increase the coastal erosion rate. At the flat shores of the bodden, the drainage requirements of the polders would rise, increasing the risk of ground water salinisation. In estuaries, longer flooding durations and permanent water collections could be expected, due to a decreased gradient.

Nitrogen limitation during the summer months, which could occur more frequently as a result of the climate change, can also be accompanied by an increase in the proportion of blue-green algae and, thus, a decline in water quality. Blue-green algae can cause skin, stomach and intestinal irritation. The already advanced degradation of the Baltic Sea (depletion of fish stocks, loss of filter/buffer function of coastal areas) also has an augmentative effect. Also the higher occurrence of jellyfish is partly linked to climate change.

Due to the climatic changes, the demand for holiday destinations on the Baltic Sea coast could increase. The German Baltic Sea coast would have to come to terms with more tourists in the summer and off-season and adapt accordingly. Perhaps, however, the extension of the summer season might serve the equalization and better utilization of existing infrastructures, averaged out over the year.

Last but not least, climate change is accompanied by costs for private and public stakeholders alike. BaltCICA will therefore also investigate the costs inherent in the climate change in case studies and at a pan-Baltic level.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

For the case studies in Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, vulnerability assessments will be performed for the above-mentioned sectors to obtain detailed knowledge of the most vulnerable elements within the sectors and regions.

As part of the vulnerability analysis, the sensitivity of society and the natural systems will be assessed - the sectors concerned often exhibit a low resilience. The capacity and institutional readiness to deal with the climate change and its consequences are part of the vulnerability studies.

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

There is an urgent need for action and investigation here, as there is a risk of damage to the economy and human health.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

In the course of the project, BaltCICA will develop and, in part, also implement, proposals for different adaptation measures. In the two German case studies in Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the developed adaptation strategies and measures include:

• Urban development (e.g. communication strategies, governance concepts)

• Coastal protection

• Coastal tourism

• Beach management

• Water quality

As far as the available time frame allows, these will also be tested and implemented.

Great importance will be placed on the development of adaptation measures together with stakeholders, on the one hand to develop sustainable and locally adapted solutions, and, on the other, to sharpen risk awareness and impart knowledge and skills. In this manner, governance processes and decision-making processes will be examined and recommendations made for their further development. At the same time, the formation of stakeholder networks will be supported (e.g., a pan-Baltic tourism network).


  • Assessment of relevant climate change impacts at the regional level
  • Transfer of knowledge and risk awareness
  •  Further development of governance processes
  •  Development and implementation of concrete adaptation measures in close cooperation with and between regions and local authorities
Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)
Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

Depending on the nature of the two case studies (Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) and each of the assessed sectors, very different conflicts can arise from climate change impacts with different anthropogenic uses, conflicts between these uses can be exacerbated, and/or stakeholder interests can be interfered with. The BaltCICA project aims at sustainable solutions.

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Costs of the measures 

BaltCICA will investigate the costs inherent in a rise in the sea level and increased flood risks in individual case studies and also at a pan-Baltic level. The results from the case studies will later support multi-level and cross-border approaches.


Funding / Financing 

Co-financed by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in the framework of the Baltic Sea Region Programme INTERREG IVB

Project management 

Geological Survey of Finland (GTK)


24 project partners from 8 states bordering the Baltic Sea; project partners from Germany include the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), EUCC - Coastal Union Germany (EUCC-D), HafenCity University Hamburg (HCU) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Other German cooperation partners are also involved in the project.


Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW)
Seestrasse 15
D-18119 Rostock-Warnemünde.

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Fields of action:
 buildings  coastal and marine protection  human health and care  spatial planning, urban and settlement development  tourism industry  transport and transport infrastructure  water regime and water management