Climate Crisis Grows with Europe Record Numbers of ‘Extreme Heat Stress’ Days in 2023

Europe suffered a large number of “extreme heat stress” days in 2023, raising the threat of increasingly deadly summers and their consequences on Europe’s health and economy, two leading climate monitors said on April 22.

Europe witnessed a year of contrasting extremes, including heatwaves, floods, droughts, violent storms, and wildfires. These catastrophes affected more than two million people and inflicted billions of dollars in damages, according to a joint report the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The report also details the impacts of global warming, mentioning the disasters that hit the continent in 2023.

UK and Irish coasts, for instance, were affected by a “beyond extreme” marine heatwave, marking the continent’s largest ever wildfire.

Northwestern Europe saw its warmest June on record, while much of Europe was struck by heatwaves during the “extended summer” from June to September.

In July, 41% of southern Europe was hit by strong to extreme heat stress.

This extreme weather had serious consequences for population and economy. Heat-related deaths have increased by about 30% over the past 20 years.

“We’re seeing an increasing trend in the number of days with heat stress across Europe and 2023 was no exception, with Europe seeing a record number of days with extreme heat stress,” said Rebecca Emerton, a climate scientist at Copernicus.

Both Copernicus and WMO have conducted a climate study based on the Universal Thermal Climate Index.

This index evaluates the impacts of the environment on the human body.

It considers not just the high temperatures but also humidity, wind speed, sunshine, and heat emitted by the surroundings.

The study confirmed that the effect of high temperatures in cities is stronger.

The prolonged exposure to such heatwaves is devastating for vulnerable people such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions.

Europe witnessed twenty-three of the 30 worst heatwaves on record for this century leading the death toll to be increased by 30% over the past 20 years.

The number of deaths in Europe from extreme heat in 2023 is not available yet.

The report consequently confirmed that 2023 was not the hottest summer in the continent, in fact it was the fifth.

This year was highly blazing even for oceans and other water bodies, according to the Independent newspaper.

Data issued by the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

The oceans were hit by various heatwaves. They significantly recorded the highest average surface temperature for Europe’s seas.

In June, the Atlantic to the west of Ireland and around the United Kingdom was hit by an extreme marine heatwave rising the sea surface temperatures up to 5C above average.

Rainfall across Europe rose by 7% above average levels. One third of the river network exceeded “high” flood thresholds. 16% of them were hit by flows above the ‘severe’ flood threshold.

Between October and December, major river basins including the Loire, Rhine and Danube reached high records of river flows due to a series of violent storms caused by heat.

These floods resulted in serious damages to the European economy as four fifths of the economic losses in 2023 were due to flooding.

Furthermore, an estimated 1.6 million people were negatively affected.

As for droughts, the Iberian Peninsula and Eastern Europe suffered multiple prolonged droughts all over the year.

The disasters are not over yet as wildfires burned an area the size of London, Paris and Berlin combined, marking Europe’s largest ever fire in Greece.

A map of forest fires across Europe. Data comes from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions are raising the planet’s temperature and threating the human life.

Therefore, serious actions should be taken to alleviate the harmful impacts of global warming.

Celeste Saulo, WMO Secretary-General, said: “The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our generation. The cost of climate action may seem high, but the cost of inaction is much higher.”

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