Europe is warming up twice as fast as global average: Copernicus report

Cracks in the soil due to prolonged drought in the Netherlands. Photo:
Cracks in the soil due to prolonged drought in the Netherlands. Photo:

Europe is warming at an alarming rate, with temperatures rising at twice the global average, scientists at Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation programme, have warned in a report published on Thursday.

Last year was the second warmest in Europe and the summer was the hottest ever, says the analysis, which details the most important climate events of 2022.

Europe experienced intense heatwaves, droughts and wildfires that added to greenhouse emissions.

Mediterranean countries were especially affected, with a record number of days considered at ‘very strong heat stress’, when the perceived temperature is between 38 and 46°C, according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service

The Svalbard region in the Arctic also experienced its warmest summer, while the Alps suffered a record loss of ice from glaciers.

‘The report highlights alarming changes to our climate, including the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe, marked by unprecedented marine heatwaves in the Mediterranean Sea and record-breaking temperatures in Greenland,’ said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Land and sea

Europe’s faster heating is partly due to the fact that warming is stronger over land than over sea and to the interaction with the Arctic, which is warming even faster than the rest of the continent.

Another alarming consideration is that we are currently in a La Niña cycle, a periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, which makes La Niña periods colder and El Niño’s warmer. A new El Niño cycle is expected in the next couple of years.

Dutch meteorological office KNMI says 2022 was extremely hot and dry for the Netherlands. Rainfall in the summer was on average 40% lower than normal (about 729 millimeters against 795). ‘Never before this century has it been as dry as in 2022,’ a KNMI spokesperson told Dutch News.

In addition, 2022 was the third warmest year for the Netherlands since measurements began in 1901.

Similar to the rest of Europe, which received its highest amount of solar radiation in 40 years, 2022 was also the year with the highest amount solar radiation for the Netherlands, at a level 15% higher than normal. This also increases the risk of droughts.

Global warming records

At a global level, the last eight years have been the warmest on record. In 2022, the global annual average concentrations in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and methane, the biggest climate pollutants, reached their highest levels ever measured by satellite,  the Copernicus report said.

The Paris climate agreement signed under the United Nations in 2015 sets out to limit global warming to 2°C, with efforts to stay below 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era. According to UN scientists, the planet has already warmed by 1.2°C. The KNMI says that at current trends, global warming will reach 1.5°C around 2033 and the northern hemisphere has already beyond that threshold.

The Copernicus report shows that the average in Europe for the last five years was around 2.2°C. The Netherlands has warmed by 2.3°C.

At a recent workshop by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), Maarten van Aalst, new KNMI’s CEO said: ‘Even in 2015, when the agreement was signed, the KNMI warned that the climate change situation was very serious. Several years have now passed, and we’ve seen many examples of the catastrophic effects of climate change.’

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