Heatwaves ravage through Europe — will become the new norm

Many parts of Europe recorded all-time high temperatures, as heatwaves supercharged by global warming ravage through the continent. Scientists say that while the heatwaves are still unusual, they will become the norm as climate change kicks into gear.

Scorching heat.

The Dutch city of Eindhoven recorded the country’s highest-ever temperature: 39.3C (102.7F) the thermometers read. But the record, set on Wednesday, lasted for less than 24 hours, as the mercury rose by more than one full degree, to 40.4C. The previous records, lasting from the 1940s, were shattered.

The Netherlands wasn’t an exception in this regard. Belgium underwent similar back-to-back records, as temperatures rose to 40.2C and 40.6C on consecutive days. In Paris, temperature records were also broken. London also broke its record temperature.

Elsewhere, in Germany, 41.5C were recorded in the north-western town of Lingen on Thursday — the first time temperatures went over 41C. Temperatures in Europe are now surpassing the highs of places such as Las Vegas or Albuquerque, which is an extremely rare occurrence.

In some places, temperatures have reached scorching levels. Reports from the Formula 1 racers in Hockenheim, Germany suggested temperatures of up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). “We’re hearing rumors of 60C tracks temps this afternoon,” said the Renault F1 Team in a tweet.

As it so often happens, the heatwave was squeezed by low-pressure zones over western Russia and the Eastern Atlantic, creating a “hot bell”  from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia. The heatwave has subsided somehow, but there’s hardly a reason for joy. Instead of merely dissipating, the heatwave will continue moving towards the north, where the high temperatures will accelerate ice melting.

“According to forecasts, and this is of concern, the atmospheric flow is now going to transport that towards Greenland,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman with the UN World Meteorological Organization. “This is will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet.”

While it’s always hard to draw a direct cause-effect between singular events and a global process such as global warming, but these heatwaves have the fingerprints of global warming all over them. Earth’s 5 warmest years on record have occurred since 2014, and heatwaves have become ever more increasing. Clare Nullis, a World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman, said the heatwaves bore the “hallmark of climate change”. The extreme events were “becoming more frequent, they’re starting earlier, and they’re becoming more intense”, she said. “It’s not a problem that’s going to go away.” Studies have also found evidence that climate change is the main enabler of these heatwaves. A study published this year by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich found that the 2018 summer heatwave across northern Europe would have been “statistically impossible” without climate change driven by human activity. This year, the situation is strikingly similar.

News like this will only become more and more common. Whether we care to admit it or not, we are facing a climate crisis which affects all of us.

This entry was posted in Science on by .

About Mihai Andrei

Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *