KLIMZUG-NORD - Regional strategies concerning climate changes in the metropolitan area of Hamburg

Background and Goals

Rising floods in the river Elbe, additional parasites affecting the local agriculture, as well as more frequent flooding of houses due to intensified rainfalls: More and more frequently these potential disasters take place simultaneously. The project KLIMZUG-NORD is exploring solutions to cope with the consequences of climate change in the metropolitan area of Hamburg.

Partners of KLIMZUG-NORD are going to research the consequences of climate changes to urban areas, agricultural sites and the tidal riverbed of the Elbe within the city of Hamburg. Taking into account research data, environmental planning, city law, and economic plans, a range of action plans are going to be recommended. The target entails a coordinated action plan for the city regions, including a master plan which reaches to the year 2050.

KLIMZUG-NORD has identified three principal topics which concern particularly sensitive issues in urgent need of finding quick solutions and working out strategies:

    1. Estuary river management: Research is going to concentrate on the entire tidal riverbed of the river Elbe from the North-Sea delta to the watergates in Geesthacht. Higher water levels, stronger storm tides, and a generally higher tide gauge are a danger to the Elbe marshlands and the lower-lying regions in urban areas as well as agricultural lands. Increasing tidal mud and sand deposits have already become a serious problem in several smaller Elbe streams as well as some harbors and their accesses. Climate changes are likely to intensify these transformations.
    2. Integrated urban development: The cooperation between the city of Hamburg and 14 surrounding districts in Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein is unique within Europe. The metropolitan area of Hamburg represents an economic center which is fairly important within Europe, as a matter of fact it is foremost in northern Europe. Increasingly the local economy has to take climate changes into account. This leads to the central issue and motivation of our research: Which consequences of the climate changes need to be considered for future urban development plans and which actions and measures are required to achieve a sustainable quality of life for the region.
    3. Sustainable cultivated environment: There is a remarkable diversity of landscape forms within the metropolitan area of Hamburg: lands with a long tradition of intensive cultivation but now changing functions (sub-Atlantic heathlands, green marshlands) and modern highly productive agricultural estates. KLIMZUG-NORD needs to develop adaptation strategies, scenarios, techniques, methods and planning concepts in order to safeguard, maintain and further develop the region. Taking evolving climate changes into account valuable cultivated grounds require sustainable protection of the biotope and need to be considered as valuable space for settlements, the economy and as recreational zones.  To secure a lasting, environmentally respectful use of these lands the focus of attention will be on three characteristic cultivated regions: the biosphere reserve of the river meadows in lower Saxony, the heathlands in north-eastern lower Saxony, and the "Alte Land" famous for its orchards.

Because the three topics are in many ways overlapping these five subdivisions have been created:

    1. Develop and continue to improve technologies, methods and conceptions to prevent and reduce the impacts of climate changes.
    2. Create strategies and concepts allowing these methods to be integrated into the regional processes of planning and development.
    3. Show how the cost, the effectiveness and the efficiency of these strategies and concepts concern the population, the environment as well as the economy.
    4. Generate a meaningful dialogue with decision makers and the public to promote the use of KLIMZUG-NORD technology and planning methods.
    5. Establish a master plan for climate change management in the metropolitan area of Hamburg up to the year 2050.

Content time


Research area/region

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

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

There are regional climate projections, which had been created with different methods and resolutions in other projects which cover the area of this project. They are available for further use. The SRES emission scenarios A2, A1B and B1 had been assumed, including the control periods for the 20th Century (C20) for the period 1950-2000. The following regional climate models and projections are taken into account: REMO, different GCM/RCM combinations from the ENSEMBLES, CLM and WETTREG project. Further models with small-scale resolution can be used for the urban climate.

Climate change will cause more extreme weather events and a redistribution of rainfall. The distribution of rainfall is likely to shift towards dry summers and rainy winters. Regionally, a decline, partly also a significant increase in yearly rainfall is probable. In addition, a 10% increase in wind speeds can be expected.

Territorial Reference: Europe (50x50 km, 25x25 km, 18x18 km), Germany, metropolitan region of Hamburg (10x10 km and climate monitoring stations)

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

Characteristic days for temperature and precipitation

Time horizon
  • medium term = to 2050

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

Approach and results 

Serious climate change impacts are expected for the environment, economy and society of cities and rural areas in the metropolitan region of Hamburg. The tensions between the growing metropolis and the surrounding rural area, between the requirements of a dynamic economic region and the needs of nature conservation will be exacerbated by climate change.

The project area is located near the coast and characterized by far inland reaching estuaries, which are exposed to the tides and the storm surge danger. These areas will therefore be particularly hard hit by those impacts of climate change which are associated with changes in the oceans, such as increased storm surges, rising sea level and changes in wind, wave and precipitation occurrence. For inland areas of the metropolitan region of Hamburg (MRH) which are not influenced by the tides, other climate change impacts are of particular importance, which are characterized by possible extreme events, such as (inland-) flood and heavy rainfall. Subtle changes as a result of the increase in mean temperature and as a result of changes in rainfall distribution during the year and their effects on the agricultural landscape, the urban spaces and their economy and infrastructure are important as well.

Against this background, KLIMZUG NORD aimed at

  • the quantification of possible future regional climatic trends with a particular focus on temperature and precipitation trends,
  • derivation of potential climate change related changes in the hydrodynamics of the Elbe estuary on the basis of scenarios,
  • assessment of possible consequences of climatic changes for the coastal protection, for urban spaces for agricultural landscape and production, as well as ecosystems and conservation

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

Approach and results 

Vulnerability has been investigated for different areas and aspects (according to IPCC approach). Examples are:

  • determination of the vulnerability of terrestrial ecosystems, including small streams and agriculture, in the model area Lüneburg Heath;
  • Economic aspects and vulnerabilities: So far there are no quantitative methods for comparing sectoral vulnerabilities and regions depending on their economic structure. But this is necessary in order to draw the attention of stakeholders on the most vulnerable areas in their region and to initiate adaptation measures. As a first approach a vulnerability-index has been developed within the project. It provides indications of the link between the possible impacts of climate change, the sensitivity of economic sectors and the implications for individual regions. The economic structure of a region in addition to information on their exposure to climate change, provides information on the vulnerability of a region.
Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

To ensure an efficient use of available public and private resources, regional vulnerability analyzes are useful. They show sectors which are particularly affected by climate change and point out their importance for the regional economy. Hence the need for action can be derived.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Decisive for the success of adaptation to climate change is an integrative approach which takes account of coordinated adaptation strategies concerning all relevant regional climate impacts and integrates all important players and decision makers. There is an overview of the considered options for action in the course book.

According to the experience and results of KLIMZUG NORD strategies and concepts for climate change adaptation must include the following main features:

    • making decisions also under uncertain conditions;
    • adaptability of adaptation measures;
    • longevity and synergies;
    • border crossings and regionality;
    • participation and planning processes;
    • institutionalization and regional networks.
Time horizon
  • 2036–2065
  • 2071–2100 (far future)
Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

It has been found in many cases that conflicts that already exist, will be intensified due to climate change.

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Measures and/or strategies 

KLIMZUG NORD wants to figure out in the pilot areas, how politics and administration can seek solutions together with society and economy as well as with accompaniment by science to the future risks of climate change. The pilot areas as a reference for the respective various areas of the metropolitan region, show the different challenges that need to be faced. The present strategies and concepts provide a blueprint for similar spaces both within the metropolitan region of Hamburg as well as in other regions in Germany and internationally.

Concerning the work in the pilot areas it can be summarized that the cooperation of the local actors and the scientists from KLIMZUG NORD has led to new insights and learning effects on both sides. But also between the different disciplines of science, there have been learning processes, such as in terms of understanding the terminology used in each case, theories and models, dealing with different research methods or the derivation of the respective technical solutions. Concrete adaptation projects and measures are described in the course book.

The key messages from KLIMZUG NORD are:

    • More political weight for climate change adaptation;
    • Overcome barriers to climate change adaptation;
    • "Living with Water" - Flood protection is a priority in the metropolitan area;
    • Metropolitan Region as a pioneer in climate protection;
    • Tackling climate change requires broad alliances - "pull together";
    • Climate Adaptation requires collaboration between technology and society.
Costs of the measures 

Techniques and methods to mitigate the consequences of climate change are subject to economic efficiency considerations. In this regard, various models are being developed to assess the economic development of the region, the consequences of climate change and the effect of measures. Specifically, an existing regional econometric macro model has been developed further and refined in the course of the project, detailed cost-benefit analyzes have been carried out and a housing market model that simulates future land uses has been designed.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Ministry of Education and Research  (BMBF) - research priority: "KLIMZUG – Managing climate change in the regions for the future"

Project management 

TuTech Innovation GmbH


Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg,
Universität Hamburg,
HafenCity Universität Hamburg,
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg,
Schulbiologie- und Umweltbildungszentrum Lüneburg an der Universität Lüneburg,
Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg,
Fachhochschule Lübeck,
Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie,
HZG - Institut für Küstenforschung,
Hamburgisches Welt Wirtschaftsinstitut,
Deutscher Wetterdienst,
Institut für Geowissenschaftliche Gemeinschaftsaufgaben,
Forschungszentrum Jülich,
Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau,
Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe,
Landwirtschaftskammer Niedersachsen,
Landesbetrieb für Straßen, Brücken, Gewässer, Biosphärenreservatsverwaltung Niedersächsische Elbtalaue,
Niedersächsischer Landesbetrieb für Wasser, Küsten- und Naturschutz Gewässerbewirtschaftung,
Landesbetrieb für Küstenschutz,
Nationalpark und Meeresschutz,
HPA Hamburg Port Authority,
Landesamt für Bergbau, Energie und Geologie,
Behörde für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt,
Hamburger Stadtentwässerung,
TÜV Nord Umweltschutz GmbH & Co. KG,
TÜV Nord Systems GmbH & Co. KG,
Hamburger Feuerkasse Vers.-AG,
H.C. Hagemann GmbH &Co. KG,
AQUA-STOP Hochwasserschutz GmbH,
Elastogran GmbH, IBA Hamburg GmbH,
ECOLOG - Institut für sozialökologische Forschung und Bildung GmbH,
Hafengesellschaft Brunsbüttel GmbH.


TuTech Innovation GmbH
Harburger Schloßstraße 6-12
D- 21079 Hamburg

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  buildings  civil protection and disaster management  coastal and marine protection  financial services industry  human health and care  industry and commerce  spatial planning, urban and settlement development  transport and transport infrastructure  water regime and water management  woodland and forestry  cross sectoral