Two years ago, 80 scientists warned of warm, ice free winters in Northern Europe.
Climate change in the Baltic Sea basin — past, present and future
Scientists at GKSS have coordinated a regional climate survey, whose results are being presented today as a published book
Titled Assessment of Climate Change for the Baltic Sea Basin (BACC), the book published by Springer-Verlag presents the first comprehensive survey of past and possible future climate change in the region, which extends over 13 countries around the Baltic Sea in northern and mid-Europe. One of the key findings is that air temperatures in the Baltic Sea basin could rise by up to five degrees Celsius from now to 2100. More than 80 scientists from 13 European countries were involved in this interdisciplinary project, which has been coordinated by the GKSS Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany. “BACC is a regional assessment comparable to the IPCC report on global climate change,” says the coordinator of the project, Professor Hans von Storch, who heads the Institute for Coastal Research at GKSS.
Warming is already under way
The scientists conclude that air temperatures in the Baltic Sea basin have already risen over the past century, increasing by approximately 1°C in the northern areas of the Baltic Sea basin and by around 0.7 °C in the southern areas. Consequently, the warming is larger than the global mean temperature increase of 0.75 °C reported by the IPCC.
Scenarios for the end of this century
Meteorologists, hydrologists, biologists and oceanographers worked together to establish scenarios of climate development in the Baltic Sea basin for the period up to 2100. The results also include the possible impact of climate change on terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems.
If adequate climate mitigation measures are not put in place by the global community, air temperatures could rise by 4-6 °C in northern areas such as Sweden, Finland and Western Russia, or by 3-5 °C in the southern areas such as Poland and Northern Germany. Water surface temperature in the Baltic Sea could increase by 2-4 °C. Higher water temperatures and decreased salinity would have a great impact on the Baltic Sea’s flora and fauna, affecting the entire ecosystem from bacteria and plankton all the way to commercially important fish species such as cod. Ecosystems on land – including managed forests – could benefit from an extended growing season, but may also become increasingly vulnerable to damage by insect and fungal pests as well as other stresses.
A milder climate could reduce the ice cover in the Baltic Sea by 50 to 80 %. While ice-free conditions would be beneficial for shipping in the Baltic Sea, they would threaten populations of animals such as the Baltic ringed seal, an endemic species that is dependent on ice surfaces in order to reproduce.