Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 299–308 | Cite as

Water temperature increases in the river Rhine in response to climate change

  • Paulin Hardenbicker
  • Carsten Viergutz
  • Annette Becker
  • Volker Kirchesch
  • Enno Nilson
  • Helmut Fischer
Original Article


The present study analyzes climate change effects on the water temperature of the Rhine, one of the largest rivers in Central Europe. Simulation calculations were performed based on a range of climate and river flow projections for the near (2021–2050) and for the far future (2071–2100) compared to a reference period (1961–1990). Changes in mean annual water temperature in the near future range between +0.6 and +1.4 °C and between +1.9 and +2.2 °C in the far future (average of nine stations). Monthly mean values of the far future change in a more differentiated way by +0.4 to +1.3 °C in spring and +2.7 to +3.4 °C in late summer. The length of periods of high water temperature, expressed as successive days with water temperatures over 27 °C, increases by a factor of four until 2100. These prolonged durations of periods with unusually high water temperatures may provoke changes in the food web and in the rates of biological processes in the Rhine.


Climate change Water quality model Large river Water temperature Discharge 



This study is part of the research program “Impacts of climate change on waterways and navigation” (KLIWAS) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). We acknowledge the E-OBS dataset from the EU-FP6 project ENSEMBLES ( and the data providers in the ECA&D project ( We thank Dr. Florian Imbery and Sabrina Plagemann (German Weather Service—DWD) for providing the meteorological data within the KLIWAS Project 1.01 (Hydrometeorological reference data for river basins) and 1.02 (Provision of application-oriented and evaluated climate projection data). For preparing the hydrological input data, we want to thank Maria Carambia (BfG) from the KLIWAS Project 4.01 (Impacts of climate change on hydrology and management options for the economy and inland navigation). We thank Dr. Tanja Bergfeld-Wiedemann (BfG) for helping to improve the model. Current water level and discharge data were derived from the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV, provided by the BfG). For support with the figures (Figs. 1, 2), we thank Beatrix Konz (BfG).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paulin Hardenbicker
    • 1
  • Carsten Viergutz
    • 1
  • Annette Becker
    • 1
  • Volker Kirchesch
    • 1
  • Enno Nilson
    • 1
  • Helmut Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG)KoblenzGermany

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