What are the effects of climate change in Hamburg?

For Climate Week, we take a look at how climate change will affect Hamburg.

The week before last, 70,000 people in Hamburg agreed that things could not go on like this. There is a growing consensus among the population that ongoing climate change is the greatest threat of our time.

But what does climate change mean in concrete terms? What is the impact of climate change on our doorstep? For Climate Week, we take a look at how climate change will affect Hamburg.

The idea of a climate catastrophe often remains somewhat abstract. Yet there have long been concrete predictions and alarming signs of what could happen to Hamburg in the coming decades.

Hamburg under Water

So what does climate change and the associated global warming mean for the Hanseatic city? The most obvious thing that is set to affect Hamburg is the imminent rise of sea levels. If global ocean temperatures were to reach 4°C, the entire south and south-east of Hamburg would be completely underwater. At this temperature, the sea level will already have risen by 7.4 meters, as stated in a report from the US research organization Climate Central. This will not happen overnight, however, and we will be able to prepare for it. In many places, preparations are well underway for such a rise in sea levels, with the implementation of high dikes and other measures. However, the famous Hamburg Fish Market, which is already subject to occasionally flooding, might soon become a thing of the past.

Sea levels are currently rising by three millimeters a year. Climate Central's calculations are based on a period of 200 to 2,000 years, depending on how well we manage to tackle the causes of climate change.

Temperatures like San Marino

The changes described by ETH Zurich are much more short-term and tangible. In the year 2050, Hamburg will have the same temperatures as central Italy. The climate of the Hanseatic city will be comparable to the current climate of San Marino. The situation in Berlin is even more frightening. The temperatures there in 2050 are considered comparable to the Australian capital Canberra.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s data clearly shows that the Earth has already been warming bit-by-bit for decades. Since recordkeeping began, 16 of the 17 warmest years have all taken place since the year 2000. In addition, every decade since the 1960s has been warmer than the previous decade.

The results of the German Weather Service (DWD) for last winter (December 2018 through February 2019) are even more concrete and tangible for all of us today. With an average temperature of 4.3°C in Hamburg, the winter was clearly too mild and too warm. The winter of 2018/19 was also among the warmest since the beginning of regular measurements in 1881, according to the DWD. February in particular, with an average temperature of 3.8°C, was 3.5°C above the long-term average.

Sunny days in February

Hamburgers hardly need written confirmation that changes to our weather are already happening. The last winters were exceptionally mild – even for the maritime climate of the Hanseatic city. While some people may have delighted in the sunny days compared to a traditional ice-cold winter, there is a clear consensus that it cannot go on like this.