Europe just had its hottest summer in recorded history

WEATHER NEWS: Europe just had its hottest summer in recorded history

Amid blistering heat waves, brutal drought and widespread wildfires, Europe just notched its hottest summer in recorded history, new data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service shows.

It was the second historic summer in a row for the continent, with average temperatures 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the previous record set just last year, Copernicus announced Thursday. August was especially scorching, surpassing the 2018 record by a whopping 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit).

In a statement, Copernicus senior scientist Freja Vamborg described the past three months as “a summer of extremes.”

The combination of record temperatures and extraordinarily dry conditions fueled by climate change wreaked havoc across the continent, she said. Officials have attributed thousands of deaths to the long stretches of oppressively hot weather. Crops withered and forests turned brown and barren, as Western Europe was gripped by the worst drought in centuries. Wildfires raged from the Caucasus Mountains to the Atlantic coast, with flames consuming roughly 50 percent more land than the previous record set in 2017.

The historic season was made worse by human-caused warming, scientists say. One recent analysis found that the burning of fossil fuels and other carbon-emitting activities made a July heat wave in Britain 10 times as likely. Other research shows that the climate-driven cycle of hot weather and dry landscapes can lead to the formation of “heat domes” that deflect rainy weather and force the continent to bake beneath inescapable sunshine and heat.

“We expect these kinds of hot extremes to become more frequent and severe because of climate change,” Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus service, wrote in an email. “Trends in this direction are clearly visible in the observational records.”

Globally, temperatures in August tied for the third hottest on record, Copernicus said. Heat waves scorched much of China, making this summer the nation’s hottest. Drought plagued the Western United States and Canada. Even the south pole was warmer than is usual for this period; the extent of sea ice around Antarctica hit a record low for July.

Human greenhouse gas pollution is heating the planet at a pace unparalleled since before the fall of the Roman Empire, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global average temperatures are now at least 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than before the Industrial Era began.

Each of the past seven years ranks among the seven warmest on record; even natural fluctuations, such the current cooling weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, cannot reverse the relentless man-made warming trend.

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In the Northern Hemisphere, the dangers of climate change become starkest in summertime. From U.S. national parks to cobblestone streets of French villages, steadily rising temperatures have turned what is often a time of joy into a season of disaster.

During the celebrated Tour de France, when the world’s top cyclists spend three weeks pedaling from the Belgian border through the Alps, past the shores of the Mediterranean to the streets of Paris, organizers had to spray the roads with water to keep them from melting.

Torrential rainfall in Yellowstone — made more likely by a warmer atmosphere that can hold more water — flooded one of the park’s main roads and devastated surrounding economies.

In China, a heat wave lasting more than 10 weeks shuttered factories and forced cuts to electricity. At least eight people were killed in Seoul when the South Korean capital was deluged by record-shattering storms. And water shortages in Northern Mexico have become so intense that people have sabotaged pipes and kidnapped truck drivers just to find something to drink.

Many parts of the world have also suffered from violent weather whiplash, as climate change disrupts usual seasonal patterns and makes weather less predictable. After experiencing some of the worst droughts in history this summer, southwest U.S. communities including Dallas and Death Valley endured record-shattering rainfall that swept away hikers and obliterated roads.

In Pakistan, one of the most prolonged and severe heat waves ever documented was followed by an abnormally cool and exceptionally wet monsoon season; by late August, roughly one-third of the country was underwater and millions had been displaced from their homes.

“Whiplash events have always happened, but now we’re seeing the flips from one weather regime to another become more violent and disruptive,” Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, told The Washington Post last month. She called it “yet another clear signal that the climate crisis is with us now.”

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