Temperatures Rising Faster in Europe than Anywhere Else, Report Finds

The increase in annual average temperature poses an increasing theat to agriculture, health and the economy across the continent, a new report concludes.
Nov. 17, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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Temperatures in Europe are ris­ing faster than on any other con­ti­nent, accord­ing to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The report found that aver­age annual tem­per­a­tures in Europe have increased two-fold com­pared to the global aver­age of the past three decades. Officials worry that con­tin­u­ing this trend will threaten European com­mu­ni­ties’ health and hurt the econ­omy and envi­ron­ment.

In the long run, Europe will have to face the increas­ing fre­quency of heat­waves, grow­ing water scarcity and sea level rise. Those are the three vari­ables most impact­ing the con­ti­nent, its pop­u­la­tion and agri­cul­ture.- Gianmaria Sannino, cli­ma­tol­o­gist, Enea

However, the above-aver­age tem­per­a­ture rise expe­ri­enced in Europe does not sur­prise cli­ma­tol­o­gists.

Global warm­ing does not fol­low the same pat­terns all around the planet,” Gianmaria Sannino, a cli­ma­tol­o­gist at the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), who was not directly involved in the study, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hit Record Highs in 2021

It depends on many fac­tors, such as the dis­tri­b­u­tion of land and sea, as the sea can absorb heat way more than land,” he added. This is among the rea­sons the north­ern hemi­sphere tends to become warmer than the south­ern.”

The 2021 State of Climate in Europe report found that tem­per­a­tures increased 0.5 ºC each decade from 1991 to 2021. While this sounds like a rel­a­tively minor increase, cli­ma­tol­o­gists warned that it has and will have sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences.

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Surface tem­per­a­tures are increas­ing as the heat is trapped in our atmos­phere by the green­house gases,” Sannino said. That heat is energy. A huge quan­tity of energy, equal to five Hiroshima atomic bombs, det­o­nated in the atmos­phere every sec­ond for the last 40 years.”

Extraordinarily warm tem­per­a­tures cou­pled with chang­ing rain­fall pat­terns and lower vol­umes of pre­cip­i­ta­tion are among the causes of the ongo­ing drought, which is one of the most rel­e­vant impacts of cli­mate change in Europe.

The WMO report found that pre­cip­i­ta­tion deficits since 2018 have been recorded across Europe, with a more sig­nif­i­cant impact on the Iberian Peninsula and the Alps.

In Europe, we are see­ing a sys­tem­atic reduc­tion of pre­cip­i­ta­tion,” Sannino said. In the long run, Europe will have to face the increas­ing fre­quency of heat­waves, grow­ing water scarcity and sea level rise. Those are the three vari­ables most impact­ing the con­ti­nent, its pop­u­la­tion and agri­cul­ture.”

The WMO reported how dry con­di­tions cou­pled with repeated heat­waves in south­ern Europe resulted in dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires in Italy, Greece and Turkey, three major olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries.

In 2021, wild­fires burned three times more area than the 2006 to 2020 aver­age across south­ern Europe and the Levant.

Most dam­age from wild­fires is due to extreme events that rep­re­sent less than 2 per­cent of the total num­ber of fires,” the WMO report said. These events, for which nei­ther ecosys­tems nor com­mu­ni­ties are adapted, can have sig­nif­i­cant socioe­co­nomic and eco­log­i­cal con­se­quences.”

Climate change, human behav­iors and other under­ly­ing fac­tors are cre­at­ing the con­di­tions for more fre­quent, intense and dev­as­tat­ing fires in Europe,” the report added.

Along with the impacts of wild­fires, cli­mate change has a pro­found effect on European agri­cul­ture, mainly related to chang­ing pre­cip­i­ta­tion pat­terns and ris­ing tem­per­a­tures.

Citing data from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the WMO said cli­mate change has resulted in shorter har­vest­ing peri­ods arriv­ing at dif­fer­ent moments of the year and changes to the plant­ing sea­son.

For exam­ple, the WMO cited the cold snap in the spring of 2021, which caused wide­spread dam­age to a range of crops across France and Italy, includ­ing olive trees.

Climate change leads to eco­nomic impacts which trans­late into a loss of liveli­hoods, reduced agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity, adverse effects on food avail­abil­ity and food access, and loss of income, which can con­tribute to food inse­cu­rity and lead to hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion,” the report said.

The report fur­ther found that changes to the jet stream, an air cur­rent that blows from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, are among the most rel­e­vant dri­vers of cli­mate change in Europe.

This river of high-speed air flow­ing at eight or nine kilo­me­ters above the sur­face is a con­veyor belt that deter­mines mete­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions at mid­dle lat­i­tudes,” Sannino said. It is affected by cli­mate change, and it is now mak­ing it eas­ier for hot air from Africa to come up to Europe more often, impact­ing the local tem­per­a­ture.”

Among the effects of the cli­mate cri­sis is the chang­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion, inci­dence and inten­sity of ani­mal and plant pests and dis­eases. European farm­ers, includ­ing olive grow­ers, have borne the brunt of these changes, with some strug­gling to cope with the inci­dence of new inva­sive species.

Bacteria such as the Xylella fas­tidiosa and insects such as the mar­morated stink bug or the Japanese bee­tle have dra­mat­i­cally impacted food pro­duc­tion and the land­scape in Europe.

The report found that 84 per­cent of the extreme weather events reported in the con­ti­nent were floods or storms, which directly affected more than 510,000 peo­ple, result­ing in hun­dreds of fatal­i­ties and more than €48 bil­lion of eco­nomic dam­age.

Sannino said atmos­pheric green­house gas con­cen­tra­tions fuel these extreme events.

The cli­mate sys­tem has so much more energy to use, and that brings desta­bi­liza­tion in the atmos­phere, which starts act­ing in atyp­i­cal ways,” he said. Those might be rel­a­tively small vari­a­tions, but they are suf­fi­cient to sig­nif­i­cantly alter the mete­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions we have been used to in the last 30 or 40 years.”

For cen­turies, the Mediterranean basin expe­ri­enced very spe­cific and sta­ble weather con­di­tions, which have been highly ben­e­fi­cial for farm­ing.

It has been spe­cial com­pared to the rest of the world,” Sannino said. It was a favor­able and highly pre­dictable cli­mate. Farmers knew how the sea­sons would unfold. We still have a spe­cial cli­mate, but such unique­ness relates to faster and more evi­dent cli­mate change.”

The report also found that green­house gas emis­sions of the E.U. mem­bers have been reduced by 31 per­cent from 1990 to 2020, with a 35-per­cent reduc­tion tar­get before 2030. In other coun­tries in the region, the 2030 reduc­tion tar­gets range from 35 to 55 per­cent com­pared with 1990.

On the mit­i­ga­tion side, the good pace in reduc­ing green­house gas emis­sions in the region should con­tinue, and ambi­tion should be fur­ther increased,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO sec­re­tary-gen­eral, while intro­duc­ing the report.

Enhanced ambi­tion would demand that Europe plays a key role toward achiev­ing a car­bon neu­tral soci­ety by the mid­dle of the cen­tury, a nec­es­sary require­ment to limit the global tem­per­a­ture increase to well below 2 ºC while pur­su­ing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 ºC, as spec­i­fied in the Paris Agreement,” he added.



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