What will climate change do to Denmark if warming exceeds 1.5C?

What will climate change do to Denmark if warming exceeds 1.5C?
The canal tour station was swamped during the surge that followed Storm Bodil in 2013. Photo: Betina Garcia/Ritzau Scanpix
This week's IPCC report warned that the most extreme heatwaves, droughts and storms would happen elsewhere, but Denmark still faces some big risks as temperatures rise above 1.5C. These are some of them.

It will get much wetter 

Both Northern Europe and Greenland are expected to face some of the largest increases in heavy precipitation events if the global mean temperature rises from 1.5C to 2C, according to the report

The report cites studies that predict “a robust increase in precipitation” in Northern Europe in both winter and summer, with a rise in precipitation of as much as 20 percent if mean temperatures rise by 2C. Northern Europe and Greenland are both “hotspots displaying statistically significant changes in heavy precipitation at 1.5C versus 2C of global warming”. 

Martin Olesen, a climate researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told DR that Denmark could expect between 60 to 80 percent more cloud bursts by 2100, defined as more than 15mm of rain in an hour. 

But rainfall will become more uneven, with longer periods of drought in which there is less than 1mm of rain per day, causing problems for farmers and increase the risk of wildfires. 

“If you take the longest drought period during the summer of 2021, the length of it will increase by 11 percent,” he told DR.

READ ALSO: Denmark must lead by example to prevent grim future in IPCC report: climate minister

There will be more heatwaves 

Olesen told DR that Denmark could expect three to four times as many heatwave days by 2100, with a heatwave defined as three consecutive days with a temperature over 28C. 

Sea level rise 

The report warns that the sea level could rise between 28cm and 100cm by the end of the century, or even as much as 200cm on the upside. Keeping the temperature increase to 1.5C will mean the sea level rises between 4cm and 16cm less than if it increase by 2C. 

“If we raise the sea level by just over half a meter, it does not take much before we get a storm surge because the water is high,” Olesen told DR. “And here Denmark is exposed. This will give coastal areas problems,” he said. 

Storm surges that are currently seen as once-in-20-year events will happen every couple of years by 2100, he predicted. “That’s a big difference”. 

An end to white Christmasses? 

“That there is exactly half a centimeter of snow over 90 percent of the country on Christmas Eve, that will hardly ever happen,”  Olesen said of how Denmark will look in 2100. 

New diseases

The report notes that “changing weather patterns are associated with shifts in the geographic range, seasonality, and transmission intensity of selected climate-sensitive infectious diseases”. In Northern Europe, it cites infections with the vibrio bacteria, which have been reported in Denmark in warm summers, as an example. 

More migration 

The report cites studies concluding that each 1C increase in global temperature is associated with a 1.9 percent increase in migration between 142 sending countries and 19 receiving countries. 

And the benefits?

As well as negative developments, the report does cite some areas in which Northern Europe will benefit at the expense of other regions. 

More tourists

If the temperature increases by 1.5C, and even more so if it goes to 2C and beyond, the report predicts that Northern Europe will see greater levels of tourism at the expense of southern Europe. 

“Based on analyses of tourist comfort, summer and spring/autumn tourism in much of Western Europe may be favoured by 1.5C of warming, but with negative effects projected for Spain and Cyprus (decreases of 8 percent and 2 percent respectively, in overnight stays,” the report reads. 

“Similar geographic patterns of potential tourism gains (central and northern Europe) and reduced summer favourability (Mediterranean countries) are projected under 2C”. 

Even more wind energy

Between 2046 and 2100 the wind energy density in the Baltic region is expected to increase by 30 percent, according to the report, with research showing that the impact of warming on winds meant the potential for wind energy in Northern Europe was even greater than previously assumed.  


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