Brief history of hot summers in Europe

Brief history of hot summers in Europe

2023 continues to bake Europe

By Nur Asena Erturk

Europe in 2023 saw one of the hottest summers in its history, according to official data.

Wildfires swept through several parts of the continent over the past weeks, while other regions suffered from heavy rains and floods.

2023 is currently the third-warmest year to date at 0.43C (32.7F) above the recent average, with the average global temperature in July at 1.5C (34.7F) above preindustrial levels, said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, earlier this month.

"If the Northern Hemisphere autumn and winter continue this trend, then it is highly likely that 2023 will be certainly in the top three years, if not the warmest year," she added.

Some countries including Spain and Italy even recorded days over 45C. Figueres, a Spanish town, set a new temperature record of 45.4C on July 18, while a station on the Italian island of Sardinia recorded 48.2C on July 24, according to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) data.

Copernicus said the global surface air temperature for July 2023 was the highest on record for any month since 1940.

"July was around 1.5C warmer than the 1850-1900 average," it added, labeling July as the "warmest month in Earth's recent history."


- Hottest years, heat waves on record

France is forced to recall memories of its hottest summer of 2003, according to the country's meteorological authority Meteo France, when more than 15,000 people, mostly older ones, died due to heat waves. That heat wave also baked other parts of Europe in August, with temperatures mostly around 40C, Copernicus said.

In 2006, the exceptional heat wave period began in mid-June, it added, and July was then recorded in many European countries as the warmest month ever.

Over a decade later, some parts of the continent were partially baking under extreme temperatures in 2020, as France recorded that entire year as the second warmest with temperatures on average rising by 14.07C. Copernicus noted that "unlike other recent summers, including those of 2018 and 2019, the summer of 2020 was not characterized by a strong heatwave affecting much of the continent."

High temperatures hit the Baltic and Scandinavian parts in June, while it was the Iberian Peninsula's turn in July and the Northern, Mediterranean, and Central parts' in August. France recorded temperatures over 35C in the daytime, while it was over 38C in Germany.

2022 was an exceptional year for the whole continent: it was the second warmest year in Europe, at 0.9C above average, according to Copernicus. 2022 was also recorded as the second hottest summer in France, at 42.6C in the southeastern town of Orange, and temperatures mostly above 40C in other parts of the country, Meteo France's data showed. That year is overall the hottest ever recorded in France with an average of 14.51C, followed by 2020 with 14.07C, according to figures revealed in January 2023.

2022 was particularly the hottest year in many other European countries as well, including Spain, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and Italy. It was also the third hottest year in the Netherlands since 1901.


- National temperature records

Italy announced the temperature record for continental Europe with 48.8C measured in Sicily on Aug.11, 2021, according to Copernicus.

Greek cities could not beat Athens' and the city of Elefsina's record in 1977 when temperatures rose to 48C, according to World Meteorological Organization's archives. This could be an unreliable measurement due to poor scientific means at the time, so the latest record was 47.5C in Athens in 2007.

France's absolute heat record was on June 28, 2019, in the southern town of Verargues with 46C, Meteo France's data said.

Spain recorded its absolute-high temperature on Aug. 14, 2021 at 47.4C in the town of Montoro, the country's weather agency AEMET announced.

Portugal measured 47.4C on Aug. 1, 2003, in the town of Amareleja, the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere said.

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