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Scorching summer in Europe was hottest on record

Temperatures of nearly 20 degrees above average were reported in some parts of Europe, fueling wildfires and causing problems for energy, agriculture and transportation.

(CN) — The agency tasked with monitoring weather and climate for the European Union announced Thursday the continent experienced its hottest summer ever recorded this year.

Globally, the Copernicus Climate Change Service, also known as C3S, reported the third hottest August on record, but it didn’t match higher averages experienced in 2016 and 2019.  

The agency’s monthly reports and climate bulletins are based on observations of global surface air temperature, sea ice cover and hydrological variables using computer-based analysis of billions of measurements from land, sea and space-based instruments. 

The 2022 summer in much of western Europe was marked by abnormally intense and prolonged heatwaves. Indeed, C3S found the average temperature over Europe was “substantially” higher than previously recorded. In August, the region experienced average temperatures of 0.8 degrees Celsius above the previous record set in 2018. The entire summer was 0.4 C warmer than last year, the previous record.  

“An intense series of heatwaves across Europe paired with unusually dry conditions have led to a summer of extremes with records in terms of temperature, drought and fire activity in many parts of Europe, affecting society and nature in various ways,” said Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist for C3S. “The Copernicus Climate Change Service data shows that we’ve not only had record August temperatures for Europe but also for summer, with the previous summer record only being one year old.” 

Among the anomalies this summer was a recorded temperature of 32.5 C (90.5 Fahrenheit) at Banak, Norway, in June. Banak is in the Arctic Circle. The same month, it hit 40.6 C (105.8 F) in Rochefort, France. In both locations, it was nearly 20 F above the average high temperature. 

The agency noted the warmer conditions affected energy infrastructure, agriculture and transportation as well as the intensity and spread of wildfires. On Sept. 5, the agency reported Europe’s wildfires this summer caused the highest levels of gas emissions in 15 years

Globally, the average temperature in August 2022 was 0.3 C higher than the 1991-2020 average. The report notes heatwaves were also prevalent over central and eastern China for all three summer months of June, July and August, while North America also experienced one of its warmest summers, with particularly high temperatures in western Canada and the United States. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Pakistan and a large region in Central Asia, including portions of Russia and China, experienced lower than average temperatures this summer.  

Global surface air temperature anomalies for August 2022, relative to the August average for the period 1991-2020. (Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF)

As is typical, Antarctica experienced mixed temperatures across the continent both above and below average, but using satellite data, C3S reported the extent of Antarctic sea ice shrunk to its second-lowest size for August in the 44 years of recordkeeping. The agency found the sea ice down to 4% below average, which is equal to a value previously recorded in August 2002. 

“Sea ice concentrations around Antarctica were characterized by a marked contrast between much below-average concentrations in the Bellingshausen Sea and much above-average concentrations in the Amundsen and Ross seas,” the report stated.  

On the opposite pole, sea ice in the Arctic region was 5% below average, the 12th lowest for August and perhaps notably, “remaining well above the lowest August values recorded over the past two decades.” 

Looking at precipitation, C3S reported wetter than average conditions in most of Scandinavia, certain regions of central and southeastern Europe, Greece and western Turkey. There were also flooding and wetter than average conditions in south Asia, including Pakistan, as well as eastern Australia and most of southern Africa. 

The Horn of Africa remains in a prolonged drought, while it was drier than average in central Asia, South America and central North America. 

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