Extreme Heat Stress in Europe Hit Record Levels in 2023, Report Finds


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Extreme heat stress is affecting much of Europe at record rates, according to a new report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

According to the European State of the Climate 2023 report, temperatures in Europe were consistently high, with higher than average temperatures for 11 months last year. The report also noted that for 2023, Europe experienced its warmest September on record.

Further, the report found that there is an increasing number of days with heat stress in Europe, alongside a decreasing number of days with cold stress. There were a record number of days in 2023 with “extreme heat stress,” defined as days with a temperature that feels higher than 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the number of days with extreme heat stress is rising, so too are the number of deaths linked to heat stress. According to the report, heat-related deaths increased by an estimated 94% in Europe over the past 20 years.

The findings revealed increasing heat waves as well, with a reported 23 of the 30 most severe heat waves in Europe happening since 2000, and five of the most extreme heat waves happening in just the past three years.

“If humans continue to burn oil, gas and coal, heatwaves will continue to get hotter and vulnerable people will continue to die,” Friederike Otto, a climate scientist with Imperial College London who was not a report contributor, told The Guardian. Otto also told the publication that the number of deaths could possibly be even higher because of fossil fuel emissions.

The report showed other extreme events linked to climate change happening in Europe during 2023, such as a loss of about 10% of the remaining volume of glaciers in the Alps, fewer than average snow days in parts of Europe and record-high sea surface temperatures around the continent.

“In 2023, Europe witnessed the largest wildfire ever recorded, one of the wettest years, severe marine heatwaves and widespread devastating flooding,” Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S, said in a statement. “Temperatures continue to increase, making our data ever more vital in preparing for the impacts of climate change.”

Overall, Europe was revealed in the report to be the fastest-warming continent, heating up about twice the average rate of the rest of the world.

While the report did reveal concerning data linked to climate change and raise concerns over public health, it also included some good news linked to renewable energy. As WMO reported, Europe reached a record 43% proportion of renewable electricity generation.

With the increase in storm activity in late fall and early winter, there was added wind power production potential, according to the report. Increased precipitation and river flow also boosted energy generation potential from hydropower. Some parts of Europe also benefited from higher than usual solar energy generation potential.

The report highlighted that reducing emissions and curbing climate change, in part through a focus on renewables, will be important in avoiding worsening heat waves, ice melt, flooding and other extreme events.

“Robust environmental information, underpinned by data from the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme, is revealing significant changes across our planet,” Mauro Facchini, head of unit for Earth Observation at the Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space of the European Commission, said in a statement. “The data presented in the European State of the Climate are alarming, but this research is also a vital tool in our aims to transition towards sustainable energy, reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, and become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.”

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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