StartClim - A starting point for climate research

Background and Goals

The Austrian climate research programme sees itself as a driving force in the field of research on climate change and its effects. New topics will be addressed and research fields will be prepared. Current issues can be flexibly, practically and scientifically dealt with.

Within the framework of the StartClim projects, an extensive reference database has already been compiled and urgent need for additional research on a number of topics has been identified. StartClim was also able to motivate sectors that have hitherto not been directly concerned with climate change impacts. Through their reliable, scientific results, the StartClim projects provide support for designing solutions and dealing with future challenges.

StartClim 2003 focused on meteorological extreme events and their impacts on Austria.

StartClim 2004 focused on heat waves and drought and their impacts on Austria. The main topics of StartClim2005 and StartClim2006 were the effects of the climate change on human health and on the most vulnerable economic sectors, e.g., tourism.

The topics of StartClim2007 with the title "The Impact of Climate Change on Austria: Case Studies", were very diverse and dealt the expansion and consolidation of the meteorological foundations, with the health aspects of the climate change, the effects on the tourism and recreation industry, biodiversity and adaptive capacity, climate change and energy supply, and sundry other economic effects (e.g., Stern report).

StartClim2008 focussed more strongly than before on climate change adaptation measures. Within the framework of the research programme, seven projects were able to be selected for promotion and funding in 2008 and for the be provided. The commissioned projects address the topics of health, agriculture and forestry, and tourism.

With StartClim2009, it is now the seventh time that new projects will be funded. Since the consequences of the climate change are already evident, and a certain degree of climate change in this century and beyond is unstoppable, climate change adaptation measures should not be seen as an alternative to climate protection, but rather as an inevitable and essential need. Also, as there are still gaps in the knowledge about the adaptation options, StartClim2009 will devote itself to the topic "Adaptation Measures to deal with Climate Change". To this end, in 2008, a study was created on the""Identification of recommendations for action on adaptation to climate change in Austria", which presented adaptation measures for the sectors water management, tourism, agriculture, forestry and electricity. This study is an initial contribution to developing an Austrian adaptation strategy, and has pinpointed the knowledge gaps with respect to the required adaptation measures and, hence, the areas in which further research is urgently required. In StartClim2009, all these topics will be further developed and detailed, in order to make an active contribution to an Austrian adaptation strategy.


  • Objectives of StartClim2003:

- Analysis of the extreme weather events of the past, their impact and economic dimensions, as well as elements of future climate scenarios for Austria;

- Synopsis of the weather factors that led up to the floods of 2002 and the economic impact;

- Creation of a rough draft concept for a long-term climate and climate impact research program in Austria;

  • Objectives of StartClim2004: Analysis of heat and drought, and their impact on Austria;
  • Objectives of StartClim2005: Analysis of the effects of the climate change on human health;
  • Objectives of StartClim2006: Analyses of the topics

- Climate change and human health;

- Impacts on tourism and leisure;

- Altered energy consumption;

  • Objectives of StartClim2007: Analysis of the impact of the climate change on Austria by means of case studies;
  • Objectives of StartClim2008: Adaptation to climate change in Austria; e.g., with the topics

- Influence of adaptation measures on the acute mortality risk in Vienna through temperature extremes;

- Adjustments to the current erosion protection measures under the conditions of climate change;

- Field Test of the monitoring concept ""Adaptation of Pest Insects to the Climate Change"";

- Organic mountain farm in Tyrol: Contribution to ""climate mitigation"" and adaptation strategies

- Development and economic assessment of different landscape structures on arable land;

- Perception and evaluation of natural hazards as a result of glacier withdrawal and permafrost degradation in tourist destinations;

- The adaptation of forest soils to changing climatic conditions;

  • Objectives of StartClim 2009: Delivery of contributions to establishing an adaptation strategy for Austria by examining the possibilities and requirements for adaptation to climate change.

Content time

Research area/region

  • Austria

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

StartClim2003: Determination of the probability of extreme events in different regions of Austria from the climate scenarios calculated with global climate models (GCM). With the help of a clustering process, seven weather conditions are derived from and by a canonical correlation analysis on a monthly basis, as well as (analogously) on a daily basis, at the regional level , with robust results

StartClim2004: With the aid of different methods, such as statistical approaches and synoptic "downscaling", future scenarios for the north-east of Austria, are created from the global climate model ECHAM/4 for two different periods. In addition, the results of the regional climate modelling from the PRUDENCE project is analysed for Austria.

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

Extreme events for precipitation and temperature, temperature reference parameters, duration of heat wave, duration of drought

Further times 

Research periods 1989-2018, 2019-2048 and 2070-2100

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

Approach and results 

StartClim2003: Mild winters without extreme temperatures (particularly in February) are beneficial for winter cereals and wine. Excessively dry spring weather is particularly disadvantageous for spring cereals while dry weather in the harvest months reduces losses at the time of harvest. Dry, hot summers are unfavourable for sugar beet and maize, to a lesser extent also for potato (losses in summer 2003 up to 30%). In conjunction with extreme weather events, agriculture will need to deal with adverse consequences caused by, for example, floods, mudslides, avalanches and drought.

StartClim2004: A strong increase in the number of very hot days has consequences for human health through increasing numbers of heat-related illnesses or deaths, for agriculture and forestry, for glacier tourism, for recreational activities on the lakes, and a variety of other sectors of the economy. The normally dry and rather warm weather period in the autumn no longer occurs in Austria as reliably as it once did, which can affect the tourism industry negatively In agriculture, dependable good weather stretches with stable working conditions will occur more and more rarely, while grapes may lack those last few vital days of sunshine before harvesting. Other aspects are a lowering of concentration at school due to heat waves, and performance reductions through heat in industry and commerce, which can result in a decline in productivity and an increased risk of accidents.

StartClim2005: Direct consequences arise particularly for the city of Vienna, in the form of a temperature-induced, increased mortality rate. Indirect consequences can arise, for example, in the form of an altered drinking water supply or the introduction of problematic neophytes (such as the potent Ambrosie), which, in Austria, presents a significant health risk.

StartClim2006 analyses the effects of the climate change on human health, on the tourism and leisure industries and on energy consumption.

StartClim2007 analyses the consequences of climate change in Austria by means of case studies, e.g. consequences for snow coverage and average depth, consequences for Alpine summer tourism, for health risks in the population by a depletion of the stratospheric ozone, for pest insect adaptation in crop farming, for the forests, for the conversion of carbon and nitrogen in the soil as well as for the drainage of glaciated catchments with respect to storage power plants.

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

Approach and results 

The aim of the StartClim activities is to initiate research projects to assess individual economic sectors with regard to their sensitivity, vulnerability, mitigation and adaptive capacity. For example, water suppliers need to diversify in their field in order to reduce their vulnerability to extreme events.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

The purpose of StartClim is to research and provide answers on action-relevant issues such as the socio-economic implications of the observed temperature trends and the calculated future climate scenarios, the expected impact on human health, as well as the necessary adaptation possibilities in the economically important sectors of tourism and agriculture. The projects of StartClim2008 and 2009 focus on the adaptation to climate change, in order to support the Austrian adaptation strategy.


  • Objectives of the adaptation measures in StartClim2003:

- Improvement of risk transfer systems of insurances for major catastrophes;

- The development of integrated adaptation strategies with technical, spatial planning, organizational, economic, climate and educational measures;

- Creation of a catalogue of recommendations for action for politics, such as promotion of awareness in the general population;

- Fiscal and regulatory measures through integrated spatial planning

- Measures for securing supply lines in the event of a disaster;

- Improvement of flood warning systems;

  • Objectives of StartClim2005: Derivation of measures with different priorities, building on damage assessments, to make sure that an interruption of the drinking water supply becomes less likely Securing supply lines as part of general precautions against disasters caused by extreme events (small planning or organizational measures)
  • Objectives of StartClim2008: Definition and testing of adaptation measures in the health sector for groups with a high vulnerability, assessment of mortality rate statistics for heat waves (e.g., hospital admissions vs. deaths at home). Assessment of effectiveness of earlier measures for educating and informing the population (e.g., have heat warnings led to a measurable reduction in the mortality rate?) Assessment of the effectiveness of the soil protection measures under changed climate conditions in the future, with regard to erosion mitigation and water retention. Development of planting and structuring variants for agriculture and land use scenarios for arable land on the basis of the developed climate change scenarios. Economic assessment and balance of these variants with regard to their set-up and maintenance costs, potential benefits and production potential (particularly from the point of view of work economics). Conversion of the scientific basis for decision-making into possible landscape structuring implementations in eastern Austria, supporting the adjustment of agricultural land use to climate change.
  • The objectives of the projects in StartClim2009 are to support of the Austrian adaptation strategy.
Time horizon
  • 2021–2050 (near future)
  • 2071–2100 (far future)

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Costs of the measures 

StartClim2003: Cost-benefit analysis for the prevention of flood damage, as well as economic and macro-economic consequences of flooding.

StartClim 2004: Yield losses in agriculture.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (Austria);

Federal Ministry for Health and Women (Austria);

Federal Ministry of Economy and Labour (Austria);

Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture (Austria);

Österreichische Nationalbank (OeNB);

Österreichische Hagelversicherung (insurer);

Federal Environment Agency (Austria);

Verbund Austrian Hydro Power AG (AHP)

Project management 

Federal Environment Agency (Austria)


StartClim is an integral part of the AustroClim research initiative, which is active since spring 2002.


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

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  buildings  energy infrastructure  financial services industry  human health and care  soil  spatial planning, urban and settlement development  tourism industry  transport and transport infrastructure  water regime and water management  woodland and forestry