Farmers Weekly 80th birthday: A farmer’s climate change diary

There is widespread agreement among scientists that the climate is changing and the weather is increasingly swinging away from the average.

We are likely to see more frequent and severe extremes, they say, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

See also: FW 80th birthday: Prepare for climate change on your farm

Europe is likely to experience an increased number and severity of droughts, heavy precipitation and heatwaves says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014 report.

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Farmers Weekly: 1934-2014

Southern Europe in particular, is expected to suffer severe droughts. Even when there is more summer precipitation, drought could still happen because of rising temperatures causing evaporation.

The eastern North Sea, the UK and Ireland’s Western coasts and possibly the Dutch coast are expected to see “extreme sea level events” with a significant increase in sea surges. Large river discharge is predicted to occur more frequently, particularly in Finland, Denmark, and the Rhine and Danube basins.

HISTORIC VIEW

1963

UK: Coldest winter since 1740, -22C Braemar, Scotland.

1976

UK: After dry 1975, severe drought and hot summer causes £50m of crop losses. Food prices jump 12%.

1985

Ethiopia: Low rainfall and civil war cause famine, one million people die.

1987

UK: The Great Storm, winds up to 100mph, 15m trees blown down.

2003

Europe: Summer heatwave kills 20,000 people. Period of extreme heat thought to be warmest in 500 years. River Danube in Serbia falls tolowest levels in 100 years; 215,000ha of forest fires in Portugal.

2004

UK: August, 74mm of rain falls in two hours, 2bn litres flood Boscastle, Cornwall. USA: Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, causing $300bn(about £162bn) worth of damage.

2007

UK: May-July wettest since records began in 1766. 78 farms and 48,000 homes flooded, impact on agriculture £50m. Southern Europe: Firesburn 575,000ha of forests. New Zealand: Two-year drought causes NZ$3.6bn (about £1.3bn) of losses in agri-food output.

2010

Russia: Heatwave and worst drought in 40 years destroys 9m hectares of crops. UK: Harsh winter, 40% increase in dead sheep picked up by knackers.

2011

China: After worst drought in decades, rainfall causes widespread flooding, including 13,000ha of crops. France: Hottest, driest springsince 1880, wheat yield down 8%. UK: Driest year in England and Wales for 90 years.

2012

England and Wales: Drought from 2010 followed by wettest April (2012) since records began, results in widespread flooding.

2013

UK: January snow buries and kills thousands of cattle and sheep. Third-warmest July on record.

2014

UK: Floods over Christmas 2013, then a month’s rain falls in eight days in January. More than 8,000ha of farmland flooded in Somerset pluslarge area in Thames Valley. Wettest January-August and driest September on record. Australia: Queensland, worst drought on record. NewSouth Wales, been in drought for two years. Cattle farmers short of feed and water, cattle prices tumble. China: Worst drought in 40 yearsin Henan province damages more than 1m hectares of farmland and 900,000ha of crops. Asia: Floods in India and Pakistan, including farmland.300,000 rescued in Pakistan USA: California, third year of drought due to declining snowpacks – 174,000ha left fallow.

FUTURE PROJECTIONS

These projections are taken from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014 report.

2011-40

Risk of forest fires becomes “very high” in southern Europe.

2030

Water scarcity could limit wheat yield in most of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and northern Europe by 5-20% and in Ukraine and Polandby up to 30% compared with 2000 levels. With adaptation, wheat yields that otherwise would be limited by water could increase by 5-30% inUK.

2030-49

Impact on crop yields will vary across regions and adaptation scenarios, but about 10% of projections show yield gains of more than 10%,and about 10% of projections show yield losses of more than 25% compared to the late 20th century.

Post-2050

Risk of more severe impacts on yields of wheat, rice, maize.

2041-70

Risk of forest fires becomes “very high” in most of southern and western France and “high” in the rest of France, Germany and othermid-European countries.

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