Extreme weather in Europe

The European summer of 2022 was amongst the hottest on record, according to a joint report by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union.

Overall, the average temperature for Europe in 2022 was between the second and fourth highest on record, it says.

The report on the state of the climate also claims Europe has been the fastest-warming continent on the planet, and warns that such record temperatures as recently experienced could become the new norm.

According to the report, temperatures across the continent have risen by about twice the global average since the 1980s. Heatwaves also led to some 16,000 excess deaths last year in Europe, it added.

The State of the Climate in Europe 2022 report, the second in an annual series, was produced jointly by the WMO and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

It shows how Europe has been warming twice as much as the global average since the 1980s, with far-reaching impacts on the region’s socio-economic fabric and ecosystems. In 2022, Europe was approximately 2.3 °C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) average used as a baseline for the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Renewable hope

However, in a sign of hope for the future, renewable energy generated more electricity than polluting fossil gas for the first time last year. Wind and solar power generated 22.3% of European Union (EU) electricity in 2022, overtaking fossil gas (20%).

“For the first time, more electricity was generated by wind and solar than by fossil gas in the EU. Increasing use of renewables and low-carbon energy sources is crucial to reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” says WMO Secretary-General professor Petteri Taalas.

“Climate services play a key role in ensuring the resilience of energy systems to climate-related shocks, in planning operations, and in informing measures to increase energy efficiency,” he said.

Long-term trend

Temperatures for Europe as a whole show long-term warming trends for both annual and seasonal averages. The trends are not uniform over time, however, and generally show little change, or weak cooling, from the 1950s to the 1980s, and the majority of the warming thereafter. The annual average temperature shows that 2022 was warmer than the average for the 1991–2020 reference period, by 0.85–0.87°C. The annual temperature for 2022 was the second warmest on record for Europe, and was 0.3°C cooler than 2020, the warmest year on record. The ten warmest years on record for Europe have all occurred since 2000, and the five warmest years have all occurred since 2014.

Above average

Temperatures for the year as a whole were above average across most of Europe. The largest anomalies occurred in the southern, western and some eastern parts of the continent, and northern Scandinavia, with some areas in southwestern Europe seeing temperatures up to 2.5°C above average. Small negative anomalies occurred in Türkiye and Iceland, with temperatures as much as 0.75°C below average.

During 2022, winter, summer and autumn were all warmer than the respective seasonal averages. Summer 2022 was the warmest on record, at 1.4°C above average. It was 0.3–0.4°C above 2021, the second warmest summer on record, and 0.5°C above the third and fourth warmest summers on record, 2010 and 2018, which differed by less than 0.05°C.

Winter and autumn both saw large positive anomalies, of 0.9°C and 1.0°C respectively. Winter was the seventh to ninth warmest on record, depending on the dataset, and autumn the third warmest. While these seasons were less exceptional than summer, they were still warmer than the vast majority of their respective seasons in the long-term records. Spring saw a small negative anomaly of -0.1 to -0.2°C.

Winter temperatures

In winter, much of Europe saw temperatures more than 1°C above average, although in northern Scandinavia and Iceland, temperatures were as much as 1°C cooler than average. The largest anomalies were found in central Europe, where temperatures were around 2.5°C above average, and in eastern-most parts of Europe, where temperatures reached 3.5–4°C above average.

During spring, Scandinavia and western Europe experienced temperatures close to or slightly above average, while much of eastern Europe experienced temperatures around 1.5°C below average. The lowest temperatures were found in north-western Russia, with negative anomalies of -2°C across a large area and -2.5°C in a smaller region in the northeast of the domain.

In summer, most of Europe, except Iceland and Türkiye, saw temperatures much above average. Across much of the southwest, temperatures were more than 2°C above average, with some small regions in the southwest seeing anomalies that reached 4°C.

North-eastern Europe

Autumn saw temperatures close to average in north-eastern Europe, while across much of northern, western and southern Europe, temperatures were 1–3°C warmer than average, with the largest anomalies in southwestern France, and southern and eastern Spain.

“The record-breaking heat stress that Europeans experienced in 2022 was one of the main drivers of weather-related excess deaths in Europe,” adds said Dr Carlo Buontempo, director, Copernicus Climate Change Service.

“Unfortunately, this cannot be considered a one-off occurrence or an oddity of the climate. Our current understanding of the climate system and its evolution informs us that these kinds of events are part of a pattern that will make heat stress extremes more frequent and more intense across the region.”

To download a full copy of the report, click here.

Temperatures for the year as a whole were above average across most of Europe. The largest anomalies occurred in the southern, western and some eastern parts of the continent, and northern Scandinavia, with some areas in southwestern Europe seeing temperatures up to 2.5°C above average.