Climate change in Europe: number of extremely hot days in 2023 at record levels

Climate report
“Extreme heat stress”: Europe experienced a record number of very hot days in 2023

In Madrid, children cool off at small water fountains (archive image)

© Eduardo Parra / EUROPA PRESS / DPA

The news is not new, but it has now been confirmed again: The year 2023 was far too warm for Europe. But also very wet, a new report shows.

Last year, on average in Europe, more days with extreme heat stress were documented than ever since records began. This is one of several alarming findings from a joint report by Europe’s Copernicus climate change service and the World Weather Organization (WMO), published on Monday. The records go back to 1940 and in some cases even further.

Overall, last year was – depending on the data set – the second warmest or, together with 2020, the warmest year in Europe since records began, according to the report on the state of the climate in Europe (ESOTC).

“2023 was a complex and multifaceted year in terms of climate risks Europe,” said the director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), Carlo Buontempo. “We witnessed widespread flooding, but also extreme forest fires with high temperatures and severe droughts.” These events not only put a strain on natural ecosystems, but also posed major challenges to agriculture, water management and public health.

According to the report, around 1.6 million people were affected by floods last year and more than half a million people were affected by storms. The weather and climate-related damage is estimated at well over 10 billion euros. “Unfortunately, it is unlikely that these numbers will decrease in the near future,” said Buontempo, referring to advancing climate change.

New temperature records

Averaged across Europe, eleven months were warmer than average last year. September was even the warmest since records began in 1940. Overall, averaged across Europe, a record number of days with so-called extreme heat stress was recorded in 2023, i.e. perceived temperatures of over 46 degrees.

Averaged over all regions of Europe, the temperatures felt above 46 degrees on 0.08 percent of the days – much more often in the south than in the north: “In some parts of southern and eastern Spain, southwest France, southeast Italy, southern Sardinia, Greece and western Turkey There was ‘extreme heat stress’ for up to 10 days,” write WMO and Copernicus. In many places in Europe, however, such high values ​​were not even achieved. The number of heat-related deaths has increased by an average of 30 percent over the past 20 years, the report says.

A wet year

Overall, there was seven percent more rain than average last year. It was one of the wettest years recorded so far, the report says. In a third of the river network in Europe, water volumes were recorded that exceeded the flood threshold. There were severe floods in Italy and Greece, among others, and parts of northern Germany were affected at the end of the year.

Warm seas and warm mountains

On average, the seas around the European coasts were warmer than ever since at least 1980. It was also far too warm on the glaciers. “After the record ice loss in 2022, it was another extraordinary year of loss in the Alps,” write Copernicus and WMO. In these two years, the glaciers in the Alps lost around ten percent of their volume.

At the same time, according to the report, the conditions for the production of green electricity in 2023 were very favorable; at 43 percent, its share of the overall electricity mix was higher than ever before.


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