Regional Impacts - Mediterranean


There are two UKOTs in this region: Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus.


Observed change

  • El Niño events have been associated with low rainfall in the western and central Mediterranean.
  • Some of the larger river deltas in the region have been affected by sea level rise.
  • There have been variations in sea surface temperatures over the last 120 years, but no clear trend has emerged. However, deep-water records for the western Mediterranean point to continuous warming from 1959 (Bethoux et al, 1997 cited in Karas, 2000).
  • Land records show a warming trend for the western and central part of the region and a slight cooling in the eastern part of the basin.
  • Warmer and drier conditions are partially responsible for reduced forest productivity and increased forest fires in the Mediterranean Basin.



  • The long-term prospect is for continued warming as the influence of greenhouse gases increases over time. A 2005 study by WWF found that a global temperature increase of 2°C is likely to lead to a corresponding warming of 1 to 3° in the Mediterranean. Temperatures are likely to be higher inland than along the coast and the largest increase will take place during the summer (Giannakopolous et al., 2005).
  • Precipitation trends are uncertain, but some models suggest an increase of up to 10 per cent in winter precipitation and a decrease of 5 to 15 per cent in summer precipitation by the latter half of the 21st century (Karas, 2000).
  • As climate changes in the region, the frequency of extreme weather - heat waves and droughts - will increase. Droughts are likely to be longer.


Implications and possible future impacts

  • As early as 1990, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that the Mediterranean would be one of the first regions to feel the impact of climate change on water resources. Water is already scarce in some parts of the region and a decrease in precipitation could make existing problems even worse. Water quality could also be affected. Higher temperatures and evaporation would cause an increase in salinity of lakes and reservoirs. Sea level rise would increase saltwater intrusion into aquifers and estuaries (Karas, 2000).
  • The areas that are prone to desertification are likely to increase, as will the severity of desertification in existing dry lands (Karas, 2000).
  • There may be a reduction in production and crop yields in the southern part of the Mediterranean basin. Desertification, increased fire risk, spread of pests and diseases region, and changes in global markets could affect agriculture to varying degrees (Karas, 2000).
  • Warmer temperatures in northern Europe could encourage people there to take domestic holidays, rather than travel to the Mediterranean (Giannakopolous et al., 2005). This would adversely affect the economy of the Mediterranean.
  • Fire risk could increase, especially in inland locations. The Iberian Peninsula is one of the places where the period of extreme fire risk would increase.
  • Wetlands and other ecosystems are at risk of damage or loss as climate change compounds the other pressures these natural resources face. Drier conditions and sea level rise would be affect wetlands.