Heat wave hits with new 'dramatic' climate concerns

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As southern Norway sweltered through an unusually warm weekend, new concerns were being aired about climate change and how harmful higher temperatures can be. There’s now little doubt that Norway, for example, faces a much warmer and wetter future, so much so that it’s even altering construction plans.

Newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reports that construction of the city’s new concert hall already is being affected by climate change. The piers that will border the complex on the waterfront in Stavanger, known as Norway’s Oil Capital, are being moved 1.3 meters higher up on the building site.

That’s because researchers believe the sea will rise by at least 70 centimeters over the next 100 years, because of increased precipitation and melting ice further north. If seasonal water levels rise even more in the spring, there was a danger that water would flood into the concert hall’s lobby.

The new construction plan is just one concrete result of findings being presented by a state commission studying climate change and what it will mean in Norway. The commission is urging Norwegian authorities to consider new realities for drainage systems, roads, waterfront development and preservation of coastal landmarks.

All, the commission says, must be able to tolerate higher sea levels, frequent flooding and heavier rainfall.

Norway already is experiencing more frequent landslides and flooding, a result of more rainfall and snowmelt in recent years. Saturated ground has slid out from under everything from railroad tracks to roads to homes, while flooding of cellars has almost become common during more frequent rainstorms.

Stressing the need to adapt

The new report, called Klima i Norge 2100 (The Climate in Norway in 2100), builds upon work by the United Nations’ Climate Panel and new research. “The most important thing is to reduce our emissions,” Professor Helge Drange, a professor at the University of Bergen, told newspaper Dagsavisen . “But we will still have climate change, and we’ll need to adapt.”

Drange, of the university’s Bjerknes Center that helped produce the report, said the average temperature in Norway will rise between 2.3 and 4.6 degrees this century. Higher temperatures will be most apparent in the autumn and winter, especially in northern Norway.

This will mean shorter winters, shorter ski seasons, less need for heating and firewood, and more flooding. It will also mean longer growth seasons for farmers, perhaps by as much as two- to three months. Precipitation is expected to increase by 5 to 30 percent, depending on location.

Western Norway, not least the cities of Stavanger and Bergen, may see precipitation increase by 40 percent. Drange fears that Bergen’s famed wooden houses at the harbour from the Hanseatic period, called Bryggen , may be “permanently” underwater by the end of this century.

‘Dramatic’

“This is very dramatic,” said Norway’s government minister in charge of the environment, Erik Solheim. “This will create an entirely different Norway.”

He noted that the national sport of skiing may be destroyed, “but that’s far from the most serious effect. This will mean more extreme weather, flooding, landslides, new illnesses and changes in flora and fauna.”

What does he say to Norwegians who welcome warmer weather?

“That they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Solheim told newspaper Dagbladet .

Temperatures in Oslo, meanwhile, soared over 30C during the weekend and are expected to stay high through Tuesday. Thundershowers were in the forecast by mid-week.