Now, recently released research by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) shows Europe’s hot summer is part of a larger warming trend: The old continent is warming faster than ever before and the number of days with extreme heat has tripled in the past eight decades. Hot extremes have warmed by 2.3 degrees Celsius from 1950–2018, according to the AGU study that was published in July. Central Europe has surpassed the summer mean warming by 50%.
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“Days with extreme cold temperatures have decreased by a factor of 2–3 and warmed by more than 3 degrees Celsius, regionally substantially more than winter mean temperatures,” according to the authors of the report. “Cold and hot extremes have warmed at about 94% of stations, a climate change signal that cannot be explained by internal variability.”
Scientists examined data from European weather stations from 1950 to 2018 and analyzed the top 1% of the hottest heat extremes and the highest humidity extremes, as well as the top 1% of the coldest days during that period.
Temperature trends varied in different regions in Europe, which, according to AGU authors, complicated comparing the average temperatures across the continent. In Central Europe, for example, extremes became hotter by 0.14 degrees Celsius per decade more than the summer mean. This would be an increase of about 1 degree Celsius more than the average during the study period, says the leader of the research, Ruth Lorenz, a climate scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.
By contrast, in Northern Europe and in the Mediterranean region, the warming of heat extremes and the mean summer temperature were about the same.
Intense heat across Western Europe is “extremely unlikely” to have happened in the absence of climate change, according to an August report by the World Weather Attribution, a collaborative project by partners that include the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford and Princeton University that looks at extreme weather events around the world. The AGU agrees, with Lorenz saying that increased temperatures in Europe are indeed a sign that the climate is undergoing a transformation.