CIRCLE - Climate Impact Research Coordination for a Larger Europe

Background and Goals

The Austrian Federal Environment Agency is coordinating the CIRCLE EU ERA Net project and the follow-up project CIRCLE2. A total of 23 European partner countries and 18 institutions are involved in the project as observers and have set themselves the objective of linking their respective national research programmes on climate effects and adaptation, in order to achieve closer collaboration at a European level. Close coordination with the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA) is intended to ensure that both the national and European institutions receive the best possible support in the area of climate effects and adaptation measures.

The objective of the project is to coordinate the cooperation between national research programmes and to provide optimum support for implementation of the European Research Area for climate effects and adaptation strategies for climate change. This should enable joint tenders to be made and long-term national research programmes to be linked in such a way as to create a transnational infrastructure for promoting research in the area of climate change between the EU research framework programme and national programme support. The philosophy behind the ERA Net model for the EU research framework programme is to support the implementation of a European Research Area through multilateral partnerships in a wide variety of research fields.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Europe
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Bremen
  • Hamburg
  • Hesse
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • Northrhine-Westphalia
  • Rhineland Palatinate
  • Saarland
  • Saxony
  • Saxony-Anhalt
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Thuringia

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

To assess climate effects, in most national studies climate scenarios are developed from global cllimate models (GCMs), which typically have a scope of several 100 km. In addition, various downscaling techniques are used to interpret the results of the GCMs. Regional climate models (RCMs) are only developed and used by relatively few climate centres in Europe.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • River flooding
  • Heat waves
  • Flash floods
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
  • Low water
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
  • Storm
  • Dry periods
Further Parameters 

Extreme events

Time horizon
  • short term = next year’s / decades
  • long term = to 2100 and beyond
Further times 

until 2100

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

Approach and results 

Consequences for mountainous regions (primarily the Alps) include changed frequency of geomorphological processes such as avalances, mudslides, rock falls and the flooding that these cause. Ecological effects include changes in species distribution and an increased risk of loss of plant species and habitats.

Socio-economic effects impact on tourism and, particularly, winter sports. Effects in coastal regions result from flooding of low-lying coasts, rising sea levels and erosion processes triggered by storm floods. Coastal wetlands, coastal lagoons, river delta zones and estuaries are particularly susceptible. Other effects include increasing salinisation of groundwater and destruction of natural ecosystems.

Hydrological effects include an increase in flooding due to high water levels in winter caused by greater precipitation volumes and decreasing water availability and water quality in summer. Effects for agriculture include lower yields due to drought, an increase in irrigation requirements and changes in vegetation.

For ecosystems, there are shifts in the ranges of species, decreasing resilience and changes in habitat conditions. Tourism is affected by erosion processes on coasts and beaches and decreasing snow coverage.

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

Approach and results 

Analysis of vulnerability based on IPCC and European Environment Agency (EEA) definitions. This involves a comparison of European countries, European regions (e.g. mountains such as the Alps and coastal regions) and different sectors, such as water resources, agriculture, ecosystems (particularly marine or offshore ecosystems and wetlands) and tourism.

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

European countries need to prioritise the development of adaptation measures in the public health, water resource management and ecosystem management sectors. However, implementation of long-term planned proactive adaptation measures and policies is still to come.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Different adaptation strategies are required for the different geographical areas of Europe and these need to be developed as part of national projects. For example, heatwaves and periods of extreme heat require adaptation measures in the healthcare, agriculture, hydro power generation and tourism sectors. For flooding, it is essential to develop effective risk management strategies. Some adaptation measures have already been planned or implemented in the context of natural disaster prevention, environmental protection and sustainable resource management. Their main objective is to reduce vulnerability to current climate variability and extreme weather conditions. However, they can also be effectively used for adaptation to climate change.

Time horizon
  • 2036–2065
  • 2071–2100 (far future)
More time information and explanations 

Related to adaptation to current extreme events and climate variability, but normally short-term. Adaptation to climate change normally long-term.

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Measures and/or strategies 

CIRCLE-2 maintains a searchable European InfoBase of Climate Adaptation projects. As the definition of Adaptation may vary between countries, this InfoBase accepts country-specific definitions maintained by CIRCLE-2 member institutions. This InfoBase includes research and applied projects funded from 2005 onwards, at national and local levels, as well as transnational projects.


Funding / Financing 

6th and 7th Framework Programme for Research of the European Commission (ERA-Net)

Project management 

Federal Environment Agency (Austria)

  • Austrian Ministry for Education, Science and Culture (Österreich);
  • The Academy of Finland (Finnland);
  • Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Schweden);
  • Rossby Centre of the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (Schweden);
  • Projektträger im Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Umweltforschung und Technik (Deutschland);
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Deutschland);
  • Foundation Climate Changes Spatial Planning (Niederlande);
  • Finnish Environment Institute (Finnland);
  • Ministry of Environment and Water (Ungarn);
  • Agence de l' Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l' Energie (Frankreich);
  • Ministère de l' écologie et du développement durable (Frankreich);
  • MEDIAS-France (Frankreich);
  • Federal Public Planning Service Science Policy (Belgien);
  • Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portugal);
  • Fundação da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (Portugal);
  • The Research Council of Norway (Norwegen);
  • The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Schweden);
  • Ministry for Environment and Land and Sea (Italien);
  • National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (Italien);
  • Israel Ministry of the Environment (Israel);
  • Assoziierte Partner: UK Climate Impact Programme (Großbritannien);
  • Environment Protection Agency (Irland);
  • Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas (Polen);
  • Center for Environmental Research and Training, Institute of Monitoring of Climatic and Ecological Systems, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science (Russland);
  • Danish Meteorological Institute (Dänemark);
  • RANNIS - The Icelandic Centre for Research (Island);
  • Federal Office for the Environment (Schweiz);
  • ProClim (Schweiz);
  • Ministry of Innovation and Industry (Spanien)

Umweltbundesamt Österreich (UBA Wien)
Spittelauer Lände 5
A-1090 Wien

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  coastal and marine protection  energy sector  human health  tourism industry  water regime, water management