Quantcast

'Disturbing': Europe Is Warming Much Faster Than Science Predicted

Science
Satellite data of temperatures across Europe in later June 2019 and late July 2019, when a heat wave swept across the continent. © Copernicus Sentinel / ESA / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Summers in Europe are much hotter than they used to be and winters aren't nearly as cold as they once were. And, the continent is warming much faster than climate models had once projected. That is the disturbing takeaway from a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


This summer saw two unbearable heat waves blanket Europe. The second set new records for high temperature when the mercury hit 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit in Southern France. As the climate crisis worsens, Europe can expect extreme heat more frequently and with increased intensity, the researchers said in a press release put out by the American Geophysical Union.

The European summer and winter are seeing hotter days. Extremely hot days have gotten 4.14 degrees Fahrenheit hotter on average, the study found. In the winter, extremely cold days warmed up by an average of 5.4 degrees F. The research analyzed nearly 70 years of temperatures from weather stations across Europe, dating back to 1950. The researchers found that more than 90 percent of stations showed a trend of global heating, as Environment 360 at Yale reported. When such a large number of weather stations report the same data, it's too high a percentage to be from natural variability.

"Even at this regional scale over Europe, we can see that these trends are much larger than what we would expect from natural variability," said Ruth Lorenz, a climate scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and lead author of the study, in a statement. "That's really a signal from climate change."

While most Europeans are abundantly aware of the climate changing before their eyes, the disturbing finding is that the rate of heating is beyond what any climate models had predicted, as Gizmodo reported.

"In the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the model trends are about two times lower than the observed trends," said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate analyst at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute who was not connected to the new study, in a statement. "We're reaching new records faster than you'd expect."

To put it bluntly, the study found that there is no way these changes are natural.

Not only are the winter extremes not as cold as they once were, there are far fewer extremely cold days than there used to be. Some European weather stations saw half as many as extreme cold days, while others reported a three-fold decrease.

While it is clear that Europe will experience hotter summers and winters, what is not known is how well people will adapt to the accelerated changes. Extreme heat stresses the human body and can easily lead to exhaustion or heat stroke. As the heat intensifies, so does the danger.

"Lots of people don't have air conditioning for instance and it makes this really important," said Lorenz in a press release. "We expected results based on modeling studies but it's the first time we see it in what we've observed so far."

Maarten van Aalst, director of Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and a professor at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, was not involved in the study but he told the Earther blog at Gizmodo that the trend toward heat waves carries massive humanitarian implications.

"Heatwaves are a silent killer; while for many people a heatwave just means a few hot days in the office, or even a nice day at the beach, heat is literally life-threatening to vulnerable groups like the elderly and chronically ill," he said. "Contrary to, for instance, storms and floods, these casualties usually do not even make the news. We only see them later in the statistics... no death certificate says 'heat wave' as the cause of death, even if the heat is actually a key factor in mortality."

Heat waves such as the upcoming European event are becoming more likely and severe as the climate warms in response to human activities.https://ejus.tc/2Zi0GHR

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A verdant and productive urban garden in Havana. Susanne Bollinger / Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.

Read More Show Less
Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less