As the warming trend continues, exceptional heat, forest fires, devastating floods and other effects of climate change will take an increasing toll on society, economies and ecosystems, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
In the last 30 years, temperatures in Europe have risen more than twice the global average, the highest of any continent in the world.
This is the main conclusion of the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) first report on the state of Europe’s climate, produced jointly with the Copernicus Climate Change Service. The report provides information on rising temperatures, land and sea heat waves, extreme weather, changes in precipitation patterns and the retreat of ice and snow cover.
Temperatures in Europe have warmed significantly over the period 1991 to 2021, at an average rate of about +0.5°C per decade. The result has been a loss of 30 metres of ice thickness on Alpine glaciers between 1997 and 2021.
“The Greenland ice sheet is melting, contributing to accelerating sea level rise. In the summer of 2021, Greenland recorded a melting event and the first precipitation ever recorded at its highest point,” they explain in a statement.
In 2021, high-impact weather and climate events caused hundreds of deaths, directly affected more than half a million people and caused economic damage exceeding $50 billion. Some 84% of these events were floods or storms.
“Europe presents a live picture of a warming world and reminds us that even the most prepared societies are not safe from the impacts of extreme weather events. This year, as in 2021, large parts of Europe have been affected by severe heat waves and droughts, leading to forest fires,” says WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.
The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service is responsible for providing state-of-the-art climate monitoring data and tools to support climate mitigation and adaptation.
“European society is vulnerable to climate variability and change, but Europe is also at the forefront of the international effort to mitigate it and to develop innovative solutions to adapt to the new climate that Europeans will have to live with,” says Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Major challenges in the coming years
Weather-, climate- and water-related disasters are expected to increase in the future, according to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Their assessments indicate that there is “very high confidence” that temperatures will increase in all parts of Europe at a faster rate than the global average temperature change; the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events have increased in recent decades and are projected to continue to increase. Finally, they predict a decrease in summer precipitation in the Mediterranean, which will spread to northern regions.
This will have multiple consequences for health, ecosystems, transport and climate policy, they say.
The State of Europe’s Climate Report builds on the C3S State of Europe’s Climate Report, published in April, and information provided by the network of Regional Climate Centres. It is part of a series of regional reports produced by WMO to provide localised scientific information to decision-makers. It was presented today at a regional conference of directors of European national meteorological and hydrological services.