A sweltering weekend in Southern Europe, and the region heats up quickly

A sweltering weekend in Southern Europe, and the region heats up quickly
Tourists protect themselves from the heat in Madrid

NOS News

  • Helen Ecker

    Climate and Energy Editor

  • Helen Ecker

    Climate and Energy Editor

Italy, Spain and France, as well as Germany and Poland, are experiencing an extreme heat wave. The temperature somewhere – perhaps in Sicily and Sardinia – can reach 48 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. This was reported by the European Space Agency ESA.

Emergency measures are in place in many countries because of the heat, such as warnings on mobile phones and more inspections of wildfires. “Climate warming, amplified by El Niño this year, has devastating consequences for food production, water availability and our health,” said Benjamin Kotz of the European Space Agency.

The heat that the countries of Southern Europe are currently experiencing is an unmistakable sign that the climate in those countries is changing. According to KNMI’s Peter Siegmund, those countries have been hot for consecutive summers, and warming is also evident from climate models. These are computer models that indicate the extent of climate change in response to greenhouse gas emissions.

Soil dries up

Two years ago, a report by the United Nations Climate Panel (IPCC) found that warming around the Mediterranean is faster than the global average. If greenhouse gas emissions are not quickly reduced, the report says, there will be no exception for temperatures above 50 degrees later this century.

In May of this year, it was already drying out in parts of Spain

According to Sigmund, this is due to several factors. First of all, Southern Europe heats up the fastest in the summer of the entire European continent. Heat causes evaporation, which causes the soil to dry out. But when there is no or almost no moisture in the soil after that, less evaporation can occur, which will cause the temperature to rise even more.

The second reason is that the contrast between wet and dry regions is increasing as a result of climate change. So the wet areas get wetter and the dry areas get drier.

In a hot climate, there is an 8 percent increase in precipitation for each degree of warming where and when that rain falls, but evaporation increases by only 2 percent for each degree. This means that the amount of moisture “leaves” mainly in regions rich in precipitation, while other regions become drier.

the desert

The final factor is that the Sahara continues to expand northward. The air circulation is changing, so that meteorological conditions traditionally associated with the desert in southern Europe are now also being observed. This involves air flowing downward, which brings additional heat to the Earth’s surface. “We also see this clearly in the notes,” says Sigmund.

Scooter rider in sweltering Seville. A temperature of 52 degrees has been measured in the sun, and the shade temperature is usually maintained

These three factors also reinforce each other. This is why the UN Climate Panel concluded that the Mediterranean region is a “hotspot” for climate change.

Incidentally, the rapid warming of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea is also a reason why hot days in the Netherlands are getting warmer, even twice as fast as average. While the Netherlands is warming at a rate of three degrees per century, the heat on hot days is about six degrees per century.

The role of water vapor is also still important, Sigmund says. “Global warming”, i.e. global warming, is sometimes referred to as “global fuel”. This means that the warmer atmosphere contains more water vapor, which means that the air can get very hot in certain weather conditions.

death rate

According to a recent study, more than 60,000 people died across Europe last year from the heat. Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal had the highest death rates.

“This summer is likely to get worse,” the space agency ESA wrote. The Red Cross urged locals and tourists to be very careful and take care of those most vulnerable to the high temperatures.

In August 2022 we made this explainer video about how the climate is changing in Europe. Check out the numbers here:

This is how the climate changes in Europe

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