How hot will it get?
Scientists from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (an agency of the European Commission providing information about the past, present and future climate in Europe) revealed that from the start of June until the end of August 2021, the average temperature in Europe was around 0.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous hottest summers in 2010 and 2018. This is a relatively small increase. But it was a whole 1 degree Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, reflecting the longer-term trend of human-caused global warming.
Some countries in Europe had quite a cold summer.
The increase in temperatures was not evenly distributed - as southern Europe broke heat records and the east was warmer than average, northern Europe experienced below-average summer heat. For example, Italy recorded 48.8 degrees Celsius on 11 August in Sicily, probably the hottest day ever recorded in Europe. The heat was related to an anticyclone that impacted Spain and followed extreme heat in Greece and Turkey, which experienced destructive wildfires.
Has it ever been warmer in Europe?
Probably not. There is no year in the scientist's records when it was warmer. Records of the Copernicus Climate Change Service go back to 1950.
Is the temperature rise a problem?
Human-made climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent and intense. Scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative, a collaboration between climate scientists, said that the heavy rainfall which led to severe flooding in Western Europe are made more likely by climate change.
From the 12th to 15th July, heavy rainfall led to severe flooding, particularly in the German states North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate and in Luxembourg, along the river Meuse and some of its tributaries in Belgium and the Netherlands. The flooding resulted in at least 184 fatalities in Germany and 38 in Belgium and considerable damage to infrastructure, including houses, motorways and railway lines and bridges and key income sources.
A man-made disaster?
Within the WWA initiative, scientists from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, the US and the UK collaborated to assess how human-induced climate change altered the likelihood and intensity of the heavy rainfall causing the severe weather flooding. Their result: "The human-induced climate change has increased the likelihood and intensity of such an event to occur and these changes will continue in a rapidly warming climate." (complete study, 54 pages)
What can we do?
Everybody knows. We have to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt our environment to climate change consequences (here is an interesting story of how the Dutch cope with it).
Will it work?
In 2015 world leaders agreed to slash greenhouse gas emissions to contain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, but preferably 1.5 Celsius, above pre-industrial levels. The goal is to stave off the worsening impacts of the climate crisis. However, average global temperatures are already at around 1.2 Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels. At a time when global emissions need to be falling, they are, in fact, still rising. The world has not yet peaked (check this chart).
Gimme Hope Jo'anna.
At least in the European Union, the annual total CO2 emissions are falling.
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