Parts of Portugal could become desert

portugalPortugal's south risks turning into a desert as temperatures rise, its coasts will erode and droughts will become more frequent, the country's most complete report on the impact of global warming showed on Monday.

The report, which is the result of a research project that started in 1999, concludes that Portugal will be one of the hardest hit by global warming in Europe in coming decades.

"I think the biggest impact is the risk of desertification in the interior of the south," Filipe Duarte Santos, a physics professor who oversaw the project, told Reuters.

"...The indication is less rainfall, higher temperatures, more frequent extreme events, such as droughts which will become more frequent."

Freak weather has already hit west Europe's poorest country. Last year Portugal recorded its worst drought since 1931 while this weekend snow fell in Lisbon for the first time in decades.

Last year's forest fires destroyed 325,226 hectares (803,600 acres), the second worst in history, according to a government report released on Monday.

Portugal's average maximum temperature has risen about 0.5 degree Celsius during each of the past three decades, it said.

The report covered the impact of global warming in Portugal on water resources, agriculture, fisheries, human health, energy and coastal regions.

During this century, maximum summer temperatures will rise between three and seven degrees, with a "major increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves", the report said.

Rainfall could decrease between 20 and 40 percent over the next 100 years, mostly because of increased concentration of rainfall during the winter months, which could cause floods.

The report predicts an increase in storms, including the possibility of storm surges of up to one meter at some points along Portugal's coast. That could raise the rate of coastal erosion by between 15 and 25 percent by the end of the century.

Apart from increased risk of forest fires, forests in dry areas such as the central Alentejo region could disappear altogether. Some tree species could migrate from the south to the north and from the interior to the coast, the report said.

Consumers worried about heating bills could take some comfort from the report, although they may find themselves instead spending to power their air conditioners.

Source : Reuters.