‘Drastic heatwaves’ if warming continues

With most of the world hoping the leaders and delegates gathered in Paris for the COP21 climate summit will thrash out a deal to stop global warming, here’s a look at the potentially catastrophic impact for Austria if they fail.

'Drastic heatwaves' if warming continues
Drought could become common with hotter summers.

The cities of Vienna, Graz and Eisenstadt can all expect to have longer and more intense heatwaves – with scientists predicting more than 110 days a year with temperatures over 30C by the year 2100.

During this summer’s record breaking heatwave Eisenstadt had 40 days of 30C and over – far more than the 15 day average for the region. By 2050, this could increase to 65 days a year.

Experts from the University of Agricultural Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna have produced a series of maps which calculate a climate model for Austria between now and 2100, if global temperatures increase by 4C. This would see average temperatures in Austria increase by 7C.

“This is a worst-case scenario,” Herbert Formayer from BOKU told the ORF website. However, he added that the maps needed to show what would happen if the talks in Paris fail, or individual governments fail to comply with agreements – as has partly happened with the Kyoto Protocol.

“In this scenario we have to assume that by the end of the century, the climate conditions that at present we see in Austria’s deepest valleys, will occur at an altitude of 1,500 meters,” Formayer said. “So the current conditions in the Vienna Basin would be those that we would see on the Rax mountain range, for example.”

Rainfall patterns in Austria would also change significantly, according to the BOKU model. During the hot summers there would be far less rainfall.

“This would mean that the vegetation we currently have would die out and be replaced by other vegetation that would be able to grow with little moisture in the soil,” Formayer said.

This would likely mean an increase in forest fires and could have a devastating effect on Austria’s agriculture and wine industry. Austria's ski resorts would also suffer from the warmer temperatures.

The scientists used data from the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).