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Climate Change in Hamburg

Scientists at the KlimaCampus Hamburg present a report for the metropolitan area

Scientists from various disciplines, led by the KlimaCampus Hamburg, have presented the first ‘Climate Report for the Hamburg Metropolitan Area’. It brings together all relevant findings about past and future developments in the climate in the Hamburg region and the surrounding area of North Germany, and it evaluates them with reference to coast protection, species diversity, agriculture and tourism.

Klimaatlas für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Graphic: Klimaatlas für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland

The report was presented today by Hamburg’s Science Senator, Dr Herlind Gundelach, Dr Hartmut Euler from the Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas from the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, Prof. Martin Claußen from the Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and the University of Hamburg, Prof. Hans von Storch from the GKSS Research Centre, Geesthacht, and the University of Hamburg, in the course of a scientific symposium.

The report gives the following picture for the past 100 years: temperatures have risen by about 1 degree Celcius, increasing in pace in the last 30 years; annual precipitation totals have risen by about 1 percent per decade, and this rise has varied by season – in summer there has been little change or even a reduction, in winter and autumn there has been a rise. Changes in the storm climate have not been shown.

Science Senator, Dr Herlind Gundelach: ‟This evaluation of climate data for Hamburg and North Germany represents the successful completion of one of the first projects presented in the 2007 climate protection concept of the Senate. The report does not just bring together the existing but hitherto largely decentralised knowledge and present it in a compressed form, but it also gives a perspective on what we can expect in the future.

‟These findings will be of great use to us, especially in urban development, but also in other political areas. As the European City of the Environment, 2011, we will be judged particularly strictly on our implementation of the idea ‘Think globally – act locally’. For this reason the Senate relies heavily on gathering findings on climate change at regional level, in the federal project KLIMZUG-Nord, and in the creation of a strategy for adaptation to climate change for Hamburg, in the conext of a feasibility study for modelling urban climate.”

"During the drafting of this report it has become clear that there is already a great deal of knowledge about global climate change,” according to Prof. Hans von Storch of the GKSS Research Centre, Geesthacht, and Professor at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg. However, the implications of climate change for individual regions has not been sufficiently researched. ‟Estimates of climatic effects for specific areas and elaboration of relevant adaptation strategies and service capacities are just at the start of a long process of development. In previous years, political debate has not considered this perspective, and science has not examined this set of questions enough,” according to Professor von Storch.

This report presents the first valid estimates for the climate change to be expected over the next 100 years. All scenarios up to the middle of the century show an increase in the annual average temperature of 0.75 to 1.75 degrees Celcius. By the end of the century the figure given is at least three degrees Celcius, and the latest results even indicate figures of up to 4.7 degrees Celcius. Every 10 years there has been 1 percent more precipitation over the last 100 years in the Hamburg area. By the end of 2100 the yearly cycle will have become even clearer. It is possible and plausible that in summer there will be 5–40 percent less rain and winter will be wetter (15–40 percent more precipitation). ‟Really it is not possible to predict the number of days when we will have to take an umbrella to work, like on the weather forcast. It is more a question of calculating possible developments in climate, so we can deduce possible courses of action,” emphasises Prof. Martin Claußen, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Professor of Meteorology at the University of Hamburg.

Changes in the storm climate have not yet been proven, and in the future only slight changes are expected. It is thought that the sea level will continue to rise. Storm floods will not rise significantly before 2030; however, there may be a clear rise in Hamburg by the end of the century. Marine ecosystems along the North Sea coast and in the Elbe estuary will see further influxes of warm-water species and a reduction of cold-water species. In forest ecosystems, in future spruces and pines could become at-risk species, while hornbeams and lime trees, for example, could benefit from a warmer climate. In fruit cultivation, an extended period of vegetation and increasing temperatures could lead to cultivation of new apple types. Overall, it is believed that it will be necessary to adapt cultivation of fruit and plants to climate change.

Dr. Hartmut Euler from the Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas in Kiel, stresses the close co-operation of Hamburg with the metropolitan area: ‟I am pleased that the climate research institutes in Hamburg are now working together more closely with innovative research institutions from Schleswig Holstein, such as the GKSS in Geesthacht, to research climatic effects and consequences. Sustainable adaptation to climate change is necessary, particularly in the area of coast protection. It is worth mentioning a new and innovative process, the recently introduced concept of reserves. In accordance with this concept, land protection dykes will be reinforced on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein so that they can later easily be extended by up to a meter if the need is demonstrated in the future.”

What now?
The climate report for the metropolitan area is helping to close the gap between the possibilities of scientific knowledge and the need for practical action. It makes the case for an intensive, cross-discipline dialogue between science, politics, economics and society. ‟The basis for forward-looking climate policy in the metropilitan area of Hamburg is a comprensive survey of the concrete knowledge about the sensitivity and vulnerability of the environment, and simultaneous creation of adaptation strategies. The ball is no longer in the scientist’s court – we have now made an important first step,” says Professor von Storch.

The current version of the report is to be discussed once more among the scientific community. In 2010 the report will appear in a final version as a book.

The North German Climate Office is responible for the organisation of the climate report. The report, which is about 400 pages long, and an executive summary are available on the Internet at:



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