C3Extreme heat never before and widespread drought marked the climate of Europe in 2002, according to the annual report of the Climate Change Service of the Copernicus satellite system, which warns that extreme events are becoming more frequent and severe, a situation that highlights “alarming climate changes.”
Europe has warmed faster than any other continent in recent decades, with temperatures rising twice the global average. In 2022, it suffered the second warmest year and the hottest summer on record with severe and prolonged heat waves, with much of the continent, especially the southern part, enduring the most days of “extreme thermal stress” ever recorded.
In the last five years, the average temperature of the environment has been 2.2°C above the pre-industrial average (1850–1900). In 2022 alone, thermometers exceeded the recent average (1991–2020) by 0.9 °C. In summer, the difference increases to 1.4 °C.
In Spain, 2022 was the hottest since records began and ended in temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius higher than usual, more often in the month of April than the end of December, according to the State Meteorological Agency.
“Alarming climate change” with dramatic changes in the Arctic
Especially in relation to the Arctic, whose climate is undergoing major changes and whose temperatures are rising faster than most of the rest of the planet, with 3 °C more than the pre-industrial average, compared to global warming of 1.2 °C.
Therefore, 2022 will be the sixth warmest year on record for the Arctic overall and the fourth warmest year on earth. One of the most affected regions is the Svalbard archipelago, which experienced the hottest summer, with temperatures that in some places exceeded an average of 2.5 °C.
Greenland also experiences extreme weather conditions, such as unusual heat and rain in September, instead of snow. The average temperature for the month is up to 8 °C above average, and the island has experienced three heat waves.
For the director of Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), Carlo Buontempo, the report highlights “the alarming climate change”, after the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe, unprecedented heat waves in the Mediterranean Sea, and record temperatures in Greenland.
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Little rain and snow melt
Regarding what will happen in 2023, the deputy director of C3S, Samantha Burgess, pointed out in the presentation of the report that although it cannot be said that Europeans will suffer more heat this year, it is known that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (CO2 increased by 2.4% in 2022) is more likely in warmer years.
The weather varies; there are hot years and cold years. What happens is that the climate crisis increases this variability and makes the probability “of warmer years” continue to increase, insisted Burgess, who stressed that the winter and spring were warmer than usual in many places.
Added to the high temperature is the lack of rain, a factor that leads to widespread drought conditions in Europe.
In winter, there are fewer snow days than average, with up to 30 days fewer in some areas, while in spring, rainfall is below average in most of the continent. In May alone, the lowest rates were recorded since there were records for that month.
Lack of snow in winter and high temperatures in summer cause the loss of ice from the glaciers of the Alps (more than 5 cubic kilometers).
Greenland suffered record melting during exceptional heat waves in September, affecting at least 23% of the ice sheet at the height of the first heat wave.
The driest year on record
Regarding drought, the annual soil moisture anomaly is the second lowest in the last 50 years. The river in Europe is the second lowest on record, and there have been six consecutive years with flows below average. In terms of surface area affected, it was the driest year since records began, and 63% of Europe’s rivers were flowing below average.
Mediterranean countries, especially Spain, are already suffering from water stress, and unless there is a significant recharge of spring rains, “it is likely that water availability will remain below average in southern European countries” in the coming months, according to Burgess.
“Water is a limited good, and we may not be the most effective in managing it. In the last six years, most of Europe’s rivers have flowed below average, which means we have to adapt to the current climate conditions, where the availability of water is less than before,” he warned.
The heat and lack of rain are the sources of thousands of forest fires that have devastated Europe, especially in the South. These fires generated the highest emissions from fires since the summer of 2017.
France, Spain, Germany and Slovenia recorded the highest emissions from forest fires Summer fires have been raging for the past 20 years, at least, and southwestern Europe has seen some of the largest fires on record on the continent.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, Luis Planas, warned this Wednesday of an “unprecedented situation” due to the lack of water that Spain is experiencing and that threatens the production of agriculture and livestock, a situation that is “more difficult” than what happened in the 90s, as he stated, because of the “high temperature.”