European climate warming faster than rest of the planet scientists warn

As Europe braces itself for another week of record-breaking temperatures experts warn the continent is warming faster than other regions of the globe.

There are growing fears for the health of many across the continent form the rising temperatures and also the Saharan dust which is blowing across Southern Europe.

Dr Chloe Brimicombe, climate scientist and extreme heat researcher, University of Graz, explained: “We know that high pressure patterns such as that currently over mainland Europe is increasing in likelihood with climate change and that heatwaves are more intense when there has been prolonged dry periods which we have seen this year. Certain weather patterns are also more likely with an El Nino and other teleconnections.

“The Saharan dust presents more of a potential health challenge for southern Europe – increasing dust content and pollution. This heatwave presents a challenge to Europe’s health, productivity, infrastructure and agriculture.

“The reason the UK is not experiencing the heatwave is because the current pressure pattern puts the country in a dominant low pressure – the atmosphere is always trying to reach equilibrium and so we have a constant pattern of high and low pressures.”

Dr Leslie Mabon, lecturer in Environmental Systems,  at The Open University, said the events of the past two weeks highlight the pace of change Europe can expect.

“To an extent, the European heatwave we are seeing in summer 2023 reflects what has been observed over the last few years in the science,” he said.” Namely, that Europe has been warming much faster than other continents in recent decades, and that this trend is especially pronounced in north-west Europe – including the UK. A common theme across much of the research is that it is difficult to pinpoint one single factor that is responsible for making Europe warm so fast. This is because there are so many complex relationships between the different elements in the system, which are still being researched and understood.

“However, we can be in absolutely no doubt that a critical driver behind this warming trend is carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Until we rapidly reduce emissions from fossil fuels, extremes like the heatwave we are seeing in Europe at the moment are going to become more and more likely. The differences that we are seeing in the extent of warming both globally and between regions of Europe are also a stark reminder that the earth’s climate is a complex system. As we get to higher degrees of warming, the danger of feedback loops or unexpected events occurring becomes greater. This is why we need to urgently reduce emissions from fossil fuels and limit the extent of global heating at all costs.”

Rebekah Sherwin, expert meteorologist from the Met Office’s global forecasting team, added: “Peak temperatures – which are around 10 to 15°C higher than average – could reach the mid-40s degrees Celsius in parts of southern Europe and up to 50°C in parts of North Africa. Higher than average temperatures are also likely at times further north across Europe, but these will be shorter lived and less impactful.

“The high temperatures are being driven by an established high pressure system that is sat across the region, allowing temperatures to build day by day. Unusually high sea surface temperatures are also occurring across the region, with many parts of the Mediterranean seeing surface temperatures as high as 25 to 28°C. This will exacerbate the effects of the heat over surrounding land areas, as even in coastal regions overnight temperatures are unlikely to drop much below the mid-20s Celsius.

“The southern shift of the Jet Stream that has pushed the high pressure southwards across this region has also led to low pressure systems being directed into the UK, bringing more unsettled and cooler weather here than we experienced in June when the Jet stream was at a more northerly latitude.”