Floods, heat waves and fires… Summer 2021, a season for all extremes in Europe

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Last year, Europe was hit by floods and fires and the summer season was the hottest on record, according to a Copernicus report published on Friday, the European Climate Service. Balance sheet that attests to the evolution of global warming.

This is a disturbing new observation, less than three weeks after the publication of the latest IPCC report. Europe experienced its hottest summer on record in 2021, with the temperature above the 1991-2020 average, the European Union’s Copernicus service that studies climate evolution.

Although 2021 was not the hottest ever in Europe and the world, on the Old Continent, “summer was marked by record temperatures, intense heat waves, long duration and exceptional flooding,” the European Service noted in its annual report on the state of the climate in Europe, published in World Earth Day.

The report stated that southern Europe was particularly affected by this summer heat wave, with “numerous temperature records”. In northern Spain, temperatures reached 47 °C, a “national record”, and in Italy, with 48.8 °C in Sicily, a “European record”. “In parts of Italy, Greece and Turkey, the heat wave lasted from two to three weeks,” the experts added.

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In the three countries, rising temperatures have led to droughts. Plants become more flammable when the air is warmer, and then wildfires break out. It had dire consequences: in July and August, fires destroyed more than 800,000 hectares in the Mediterranean region, according to Copernicus.

They are the coldest spring

This extreme situation contrasts with spring, whose data appears encouraging at first glance. According to Copernicus, it was “one of the coldest regions of the past 10 years”, two degrees Celsius below average.

But make no mistake about it. “Overall, all seasons have warmed significantly in Europe over the past decades. In 2020, we had a very warm spring and hot summer, but autumn and winter were the warmest ever. Whereas in 2021, spring was cooler than average. And the best summer ever recorded”, nuance Copernicus, contacted by France 24.

>> To (re)view France24.com: ECO Info – Global Warming: The cost of natural disasters is rising

In addition, average temperatures during the spring of 2021 were higher than they were before 1980. However, global warming began to accelerate sharply around the 1970s and 1980s.

European seas were also not spared, in particular the Baltic, where scientists noted, in June and July, in some parts, “more than 5 degrees Celsius above average.” Over the course of the entire year, the results were also historic. “Temperatures […] In large areas of the Baltic Sea and the eastern Mediterranean it has not been very high since at least 1993 ”, noted Copernican scientists.

After the Baltic warming and devastating floods

The high temperature of the Baltic Sea seems to be the cause of the floods that hit Germany and Belgium in particular in July. “This led to higher humidity, which in turn lowered atmospheric pressure” leading to the formation of winds, rain and clouds, Copernicus explains to France 24. In addition, the “relatively low speed of the turbulence” is probably another factor in these rains. Heavy, adds the European Agency. Then the water accumulated in the Meuse and Rhine rivers, when the soil was already saturated with water and could no longer absorb rain, causing floods that devastated many countries in Western Europe.

In parallel, and on a global scale, “carbon dioxide (CO .) concentrations2) and methane (CH .)4) continued to increase [en 2021, avec une] A particularly noticeable increase” in the concentration of methane. However, the increase in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide2 and methane, which causes global warming. Greenhouse gases absorb more sunlight than necessary, which leads to warming on Earth.

This phenomenon was felt not only during the summer in Europe, but also throughout the year. “Globally, 2021 has been the sixth or seventh warmest year since at least 1850,” states the report, which states that “the past seven years have been the warmest on record.”

According to Copernicus, the temperature of the European continent has also increased by about two degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era, while the temperature of the globe has increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius to 1.2 degrees Celsius. The IPCC urges action before it is no longer possible to limit global warming to +1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era. A threshold that must not be crossed to preserve a livable world.

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