Exploring the behaviour of atmospheric temperatures under dry conditions in Europe: evolution since the mid-20th century and projections for the end of the 21st century


  • Martin Beniston

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Environmental Sciences and Department of Physics, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    • Institute for Environmental Sciences and Department of Physics, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
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In a changing climate, it is likely that precipitation patterns will experience shifts in amount and seasonality, with a tendency towards increased drought in many parts of Europe. In order to investigate what could be some of the feedbacks of dry conditions on temperature, this paper has investigated close to 30 European locations to assess the influence of observed dry summer days on daily maximum temperature (Tmax) as well as a clustering of rainless days, and finally the temperature impact related to drought conditions as defined by the Standardized Precipitation Index. The results show that for the three main European climatic regions investigated (‘Mediterranean’, ‘Maritime’, ‘Continental’), the influence of rainless days is discernible, with an average difference between mean summer Tmax and Tmax during rainless days only of up to 1.5 °C. A further aim of the study is to determine whether recent shifts in the occurrence of rainless days during the summer have a bearing on temperature trends. Results show that shifts in rainless days explain only a fraction of the observed temperature change at the locations studied, thereby hinting that the enhanced greenhouse effect remains the dominant mechanism for temperature change. Finally, using a regional climate model, very preliminary insight into a ‘greenhouse climate’ highlights the fact that changes in dry conditions seem to confirm the findings for current climate, i.e. they account for only a fraction of the increase in temperatures. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society