Climate, in 2022 in Europe extreme heat and widespread drought

Copernicus Climate Change Service European State of the Climate (ESOTC) report published

Europe lived, in 2022, its own hottest summer ever recorded, in the year that ranks second among the hottest. So much so that much of the Continent has suffered intense and prolonged heat waves with southern Europe experiencing the highest number of ‘intense heat stress’ days. At the same time low rainfall and high temperatures have led to a widespread drought. Today, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) releases its annual European State of the Climate (ESOTC) report, detailing the significant climate events of 2022 across Europe and globally.

Globally, the past eight years have been the warmest on record. During 2022, global annual average concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) reached the highest levels ever measured by satellite. Europe’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average rate, faster than any other continent, according to data from C3S. Mauro Facchini, Head of Earth Observation at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defense Industry and Space, recalls that “the latest IPCC summary report signals that time is running out and that global warming has led to more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, as is the case in Europe.Only accurate data and information on the current state of the climate can help us achieve the goals we have set ourselves, and the European State of the Climate report is a tool essential to support the European Union in its climate adaptation agenda and commitment to achieve climate neutrality by 2050”.

More specifically, the data presented in the report show that the European average for the last 5-year period was about 2.2°C above the pre-industrial era (period between 1850 and 1900). In addition, 2022 was the second warmest year on record, with an increase of 0.9°C over the recent average (using the baseline period 1991-2020). Last summer was the hottest on record in European increase of 1.4°C over the recent average.

Not only. The extreme heat recorded in the final phase of spring and during the summer created dangerous conditions for human health: due to the extreme heat waves during the summer, southern Europe recorded a record number of days with one “intense heat stress”. Europe is generally experiencing an increasing trend in the number of summer days with ‘severe heat stress’ or ‘very severe’, and the same trend is observed in southern Europe for ‘extreme heat stress’. On the continent, at the same time, there is also a trend towards a decrease in the number of “no heat stress” days.

“The report highlights worrying changes in our climate, including Europe’s hottest summer on record, marked by unprecedented marine heatwaves in the Mediterranean Sea and record-breaking temperatures in Greenland. Understanding climate dynamics in Europe is key for our efforts to adapt and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on the continent”, explains Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

RECORD LOSS OF ICE FROM THE GLACIERS OF THE ALPS – One of the most significant events that characterized Europe in 2022 – notes the report – was the widespread drought. During the winter of 2021-2022, large parts of Europe experienced fewer than average snow days, with many areas experiencing up to 30 fewer days. In spring, rainfall was below average across much of the continent, with May reaching its lowest on record. The lack of winter snow and high summer temperatures have resulted a record loss of ice from the glaciers of the Alps, equivalent to over 5 km3 of ice. The low rainfall, which lasted throughout the summer, together with the exceptional heat waves, also caused a widespread and prolonged drought that affected various sectors, such as agriculture, river transport and energy.

In addition, annual soil moisture was the second lowest in 50 years, with only a few areas experiencing above-average soil moisture conditions. Finally, river flows in Europe were the second lowest on record, marking the sixth consecutive year with below-average flows. In terms of affected area, 2022 was the driest year on recordwith 63% of European rivers experiencing below average flows.