Europe – Fastest Warming Continent In World Since 1980s, Says WMO

Global Warming1

Temperatures over Europe have warmed significantly over the 1991-2021 period, at an average rate of about +0.5 °C per decade, making it the fastest warming region of all the WMO Regions. This has been said by the State of the Climate in Europe, a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Monday.

The report said:

Temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years – the highest of any continent in the world. As the warming trend continues, exceptional heat, wildfires, floods and other climate change impacts will affect society, economies and ecosystems.

This State of the Climate in Europe report is produced jointly with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, and focuses on 2021. It provides information on rising temperatures, land and marine heatwaves, extreme weather, changing precipitation patterns and retreating ice and snow.

The report said:

As a result of increased temperature, Alpine glaciers lost 30 meters in ice thickness from 1997 to 2021. The Greenland ice sheet is melting and contributing to accelerating sea level rise.  In summer 2021, Greenland saw a melt event and the first-ever recorded rainfall at its highest point, Summit station.

The report said:

The temperature close to Earth’s surface has large impacts on both human and natural systems. It affects health, agriculture and energy demand, for example, as well as growth cycles in natural environments. Human health is especially affected by extreme temperatures. Temperatures in Europe have warmed significantly during the industrial era, and during the 1991–2021 period Europe has warmed at a rate (+0.5 °C per decade) that is more than twice the global average, making it the fastest warming region of the WMO regions.

The 2021 annual mean temperature for Europe ranked between sixth and tenth highest on record, with an anomaly of 0.90 °C [0.76 °C–1.00 °C] above the 1981–2010 average, and 1.44 °C [1.30 °C–1.61 °C] above the 1961–1990 average.

The annual temperatures for 2021 were generally above the 1981–2010 average for almost the entire region; only a small area in the north-western Russian Federation saw below-average temperatures.

The largest deviations from the 1981–2010 average were recorded over the European part of the Arctic and south-eastern parts of the region, with temperatures more than 2 °C above average over parts of Greenland, primarily the north and the north-west, and Svalbard, as well over eastern Türkiye, the southern Caucasus and parts of the Middle East.

Key Messages Of The Report

  • Temperatures in Europe have warmed significantly over the 1991–2021 period, at an average rate of about +0.5 °C per decade. It is the fastest warming of all the WMO Regions.
  • The annual mean temperature in 2021 ranked between sixth and tenth highest on record, depending on the data set used.
  • While precipitation in 2021 overall was slightly above normal in Central and Eastern Europe, it still was insufficient to compensate for deficits from the previous three years. In other areas such as the Iberian Peninsula and the Alpine region, it was the second or third consecutive drier-than-normal year.
  • Average sea-ice extent in the European Arctic sector in September 2021 was the lowest on record for the month (37% below the 1981–2010 average), slightly below the previous record from September 2013 (36% below average). A significant contributor to these low values was the record low sea-ice conditions in the Greenland Sea from July to September.
  • High-impact weather and climate events led to hundreds of fatalities, directly affected around 510,000 people and caused economic damages exceeding US$ 50 billion. About 84% of the events were floods or storms. Exceptionally high temperatures and heatwaves occurred in many parts of Europe throughout the summer. On 11 August, a location near Syracuse in Sicily, Italy, reached 48.8 °C, a provisional European record.
  • Drought and high temperatures fueled significant wildfires in summer, with southern Türkiye, Italy and Greece especially badly affected. Annual burned areas were about three times or more the 2006–2020 average in Cyprus, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Montenegro and Türkiye.
  • An unusual spring cold outbreak affected many parts of Europe in early April, resulting in widespread and severe damage to agriculture, with large losses to vineyards, fruit trees and other crops.
  • In France losses exceeded US$ 4.6 billion. European Union (EU) greenhouse gas emissions decreased 31% between 1990 and 2020 (the net reduction target for 2030 is 55%).
  • While the cut in 2019 was strongly driven by fossil fuel price effects and policy measures, the decline in 2020 was additionally related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2021 emissions in the EU are expected to be higher than in 2020. In other countries of the region, reductions targets for 2030 range in general from 35% to 55% compared with 1990.
  • About 75% of people in Europe are covered by early warning systems (EWSs), and many WMO Members in Europe have an above-average capacity to deliver on all their EWS needs. However, 7 Members (out of the 34 providing data) reported having inadequate end-to-end riverine flood forecasting services, and 13 Members reported inadequate end-to-end flash flood forecasting services. This is a concern, considering that in the last 50 years (1970–2019) 38% of the weather, water and climate disasters were related to floods.
  • Children are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than adults, both physically and psychologically. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), nearly 125 million children in Europe live in ‘Medium–High’ risk countries (the third of five levels of classification used globally).
  • Comprehensive heat-health action plans have been shown to save lives and strengthen the resilience of communities and people to cope with extreme heat. Several European countries have implemented heat health action plans to prevent ill health and excess mortality from heat. The European Region is one of the most advanced regions in transboundary cooperation in climate change adaptation. Countries have developed and implemented climate change adaptation strategies and plans and/ or integrated climate change adaptation into their planning documents, in particular across several transnational river basins.

“It shows how Europe has been warming twice as much as the global average since the 1980s, with far-reaching impacts on the region’s socio-economic fabric and ecosystems,” the WMO said in a statement, citing the State of the Climate in Europe report.

“In 2022, Europe was approximately 2.3 °C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) average used as a baseline for the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

At the same time, meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards in Europe in 2022 resulted in 16,365 reported deaths and directly affected 156,000 people, the organization noted, adding that financial losses in 2022 amounted to at least $2 billion.

“In 2022, many countries in western and south-western Europe had their warmest year on record. Summer was the hottest ever recorded: the high temperatures exacerbated the severe and widespread drought conditions, fuelled violent wildfires that resulted in the second largest burnt area on record, and led to thousands of heat-associated excess deaths,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.

However, the WMO noted that for the first time last year, renewable energy sources in Europe produced more electricity than polluting fossil fuels.

In May, the organization said that global temperatures could reach record highs over the next five years.

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