Expected Climate Changes

dry soil broken by the sunClick to enlarge
There will be more heat events in Germany during the summer.
Source: Susanne Kambor

The term “climate change” describes any change in the climate or the climate parameters over time. Climate changes can be described by a modification of the mean value or the fluctuation range of climatic characteristics over a long period of time (usually three decades).

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How can we predict possible climate changes?

The expected climate changes can be assessed with the help of global and regional climate models. Statements about possible future climate changes are usually based on multi-model or ensemble analyses. These analyses help with the identification of potential climate impacts and the appropriate adaptation options.

Ensemble analyses evaluate the results of many climate models. Thus, statements about the expected changes of, for example, temperature, precipitation and wind conditions at the global, national and regional (natural area or state) level can be made. As far as Germany is concerned, the results from four different regional climate models  are used commonly: CLM and REMO – these are dynamic regional climate models – and WETTREG 2010 and STAR – both are statistic regional models . Furthermore, the results from other regional models operated in Europe can be referred to.

The ensemble analysis provides manageable results such as mean values and scopes of the modelled climate parameters, such as temperature or precipitation. It also reflects the uncertainty of the model results on future climate changes.

Which climate changes are expected for Germany?

In the following, the results of the described models as well as an ensemble analysis for Germany are summarised. Statements on possible changes of the extreme values originate from a recent analysis of regional climate projections for Germany. It considers changes of the extreme behaviour of temperature, precipitation and wind speed. Assuming there is a moderate increase in the greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC SRES A 1B), the following climate changes are likely to occur until the period 2071-2100 (compared to 1961-1990):

  • The average temperatures rise regionally and seasonally differentiated by about +3.5°C (summer: +1.5°C to +5°C; winter: +2°C to +4.5°C).
  • Not only the average temperature in Germany will increase; very high temperatures will occur especially in the summer.
  • Overall, it is expected that there will be a decline in precipitation during the summer months. The forecasts range between minus 25 percent and plus five percent. It is highly likely that the proportion of heavy precipitation in the total precipitation will increase in the summer.
  • As far as the total precipitation in winter is concerned, most regions in Germany expect an increase (about minus four percent to plus 20 percent). The largest increase is expected to occur in Northern Germany. However, the regions very far south will probably not be subject to any substantial change. In fact it is expected that there will even be a slight decrease. Even in winter, heavy rainfall will be recorded more frequently in the future.
  • Extreme wind speeds will also occur more often in the future.

How can I find information on possible climate changes in my region?

The climate changes presented here are only a rough summary of the results of climate models for Germany. More detailed, regionally and temporally specified information can be obtained mainly from digital maps.

The Climate Atlas of the German Weather Service (DWD) provides detailed maps of expected changes of different climate parameters.

The climate signal maps of the Climate Service Center (CSC) provide information as to how robust the statements on the modelled climate changes in Germany are. They are based on ensemble analyses - like the model results in the DWD Climate Atlas.

An analysis of the expected climate changes is the first step for an evaluation of possible climate impacts .