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European early warning systems

Early warning systems for climate-related risks to health and wellbeing must rely on a sound scientific and technical basis that enables a focus on regions and population groups most at risk. Early warning systems include detection, analysis, prediction, and then warning dissemination followed by response decision-making and implementation. Such systems warn stakeholders and vulnerable populations about climatic hazards such as tropical cyclones, floods, storms, avalanches, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, extreme heat and cold, forest fires, drought, etc. To be effective and complete, an early warning system needs to comprise four interacting elements namely: (i) risk knowledge, (ii) monitoring and warning services, (iii) dissemination and communication and (iv) response capability.

In Europe, there is a considerable experience with early warning systems, especially for flood and flash-flood risk, storms, forest fires, heatwaves and droughts. Early warning systems are directly relevant for diverse sectors that are primarily affected by climate-related risks, including public health, disaster risk reduction, agriculture, forestry, transport and energy.

Multi-hazard warning systems

Some early warning systems provide services and products for several climate-related risks.

Meteoalarm is a joint effort from EUMETNET (The Network of European Meteorological Services). It provides alerts in Europe for extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall with risk of flooding, severe thunderstorms, gale-force winds, heat waves, forest fires, fog, snow or extreme cold with snowstorms, avalanches or severe coastal tides.

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) operated by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission provides access (among others) to key European early warning systems, in particular the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS), the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), and the European Drought Observatory (EDO). It also links to the global versions of the these early warning system (GloFAS, GDO, GWIS) and to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) for tropical cyclones. These versions cover the overseas areas of Europe that are often affected by extreme events.

Heat and health

Europe has experienced several extreme summer heatwaves since 2000, which have led to high mortality and socio-economic impacts. The frequency of extreme heat events and their corresponding effects on human health and wellbeing are projected to increase substantially in a warming climate. The joint collaboration of institutional agencies and multidisciplinary approaches is essential for a successful development of heat-health warning systems and action plans, which can reduce the impacts of extreme heat on the population.

The Heat-Shield project addresses the negative impact of increased workplace heat stress on the health and productivity. The project has developed a MapViewer, which provides a 4-week heat wave forecast for Europe, focussing on occupational health. The project has also produced an Overview of Existing Heat-Health warning Systems in Europe, which provides a state-of-the-art review of 16 European heat-health warning systems and heat-health action plans.

The EuroHEAT portal provides an online heatwave forecast for Europe. It displays daily forecasts of heatwave probability (0–100 %) per NUTS1-Region for the upcoming ten days in a colour-coded map. The tool is no longer actively maintained, but it continues to be operational and is supplied with up-to-date climate data.

Climate-sensitive infectious diseases

Monitoring changes in climatic and environmental drivers of infectious diseases can help anticipate, or even forecast, an upsurge of infections. Climate change can shift the geographical ranges of vector-borne diseases in Europe, thus early warning is becoming even more important.

The Vibrio Map Viewer developed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which is hosted on the ECDC Geoportal, provides daily updated forecasts on Vibrio suitability for European coastal areas.

European pollen information services

Rising temperatures caused by climate change mean that trees and other plants bloom earlier or for longer, prolonging the suffering of many people with pollen allergies.

The polleninfo portal provides daily updated pollen forecasts and allergy risk assessments. It has been developed in partnership between the European Aeroallergen Network (EAN) and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

Highlighted systems

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