Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 113, Issue 3–4, pp 683–695 | Cite as

The impacts of climate change on the winter hardiness zones of woody plants in Europe

  • Philipp Gloning
  • Nicole Estrella
  • Annette MenzelEmail author
Original Paper


In this study, we investigated how global climate change will affect winter minimum temperatures and if, as a consequence, potential species ranges will expand or contract. Thus, Heinze and Schreiber’s 1984 winter hardiness zones (WHZ) for woody plants in Europe, which are based on mean annual minimum temperatures, were updated and analyzed for recent and future changes using the ENSEMBLES data set E-OBS for recent climate and CLM-model data based on two emission scenarios (A1B and B1) for future simulated climate. For the different data sets, maps of the WHZ were created and compared. This allowed the assessment of projected changes in the development of the WHZ until the end of the twenty-first century. Our results suggested that, depending on the emission scenario used, the main shifts in the WHZ will occur for zones 8 and 9 (increase), located in Mediterranean regions, and for zone 5 (decrease), a boreal zone. Moreover, up to 85 % of the area analyzed will experience a warmer winter climate during the twenty-first century, and some areas will experience increases in two WHZ, equal to an increase of 5.6–11 °C in the mean annual minimum temperature. The probabilities of absolute minimum winter temperatures for four 30-year time periods from 1971 to 2100 were calculated in order to reveal changes associated with a general increase in temperature as well as shifts in the distribution itself. It was predicted that colder temperatures than indicated by the WHZ will occur less frequently in the future, but, depending on the region, reoccur every 5–50 years. These findings are discussed in the context of woody plant species assigned to each of the WHZ by Roloff and Bärtels (1996), with respect to a possible expansion of their range limits and the altered risk of recurring cold spells.


Minimum Temperature Frost Damage Cold Spell Annual Minimum Temperature Skewness Factor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge the E-OBS dataset from the EU-FP6 project ENSEMBLES ( and the data providers in the ECAandD project ( Furthermore, we wish to acknowledge the Bavarian State Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forestry for funding the project through KLIP 10. The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the TUM Graduate School’s Faculty Graduate Center GZW at the Technische Universität München. Furthermore, we would like to acknowledge Professor Tim Sparks for valuable advice and English proofreading.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philipp Gloning
    • 1
  • Nicole Estrella
    • 1
  • Annette Menzel
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Chair of EcoclimatologyTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany

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