Summer of contrasts across Europe

Europe's rapidly changing climate

As the fastest warming continent, it comes as no surprise that Europe’s climate is rapidly changing. Millions of people were affected by extreme weather events in 2023, from widespread flooding to severe heatwaves and the largest wildfire ever recorded.


Heatwaves and wildfires in 2023


Two recent studies on Europe’s climate show that the impacts of climate change continued to be seen in 2023. In March 2024, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published the first-ever European Climate Risk Assessment (EUCRA), which states that Europe is the fastest-warming continent in the world, and climate risks are threatening its energy and food security, ecosystems, infrastructure, water resources, financial stability and people’s health.


Monster from the Deep © Paul Kingston
Monster from the Deep © Paul Kingston


The EEA report says that many of these risks have already reached critical levels and could become catastrophic without urgent and decisive action. That means extreme heat, drought, wildfires and flooding, as experienced in recent years, will worsen. The report highlights that some regions in Europe are hotspots for multiple climate risks. 


There is No One Anymore © Cailin
There is No One Anymore © Cailin


Southern Europe, for example, is at particular risk from wildfires and the impacts of heat and water scarcity on agricultural production, outdoor work and human health. Low-lying coastal regions of Europe, including many densely populated cities, are at risk of flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion.

The second study, with a timely release on Earth Day 2024, is the 2023 European State of the Climate report (ESOTC 2023), from the Copernicus Climate Change Service and the World Meteorological Organization. This report explains why understanding climate trends is vital in developing mitigation and adaptation measurements.

Number of days during summer 2023 with very strong heat stress

Some of the key findings from the ESOTC report:


The Field of Sunflowers After Drought © Mykhailo Bekish
The Field of Sunflowers After Drought © Mykhailo Bekish


•    Temperatures in Europe were above average for 11 months of 2023, including the warmest September on record
•    Heat-related mortality has increased by around 30% in the past 20 years and heat-related deaths are estimated to have increased in 94% of the European regions monitored
•    For 2023 as a whole, the average sea surface temperature for the ocean across Europe was the highest on record
•    In June 2023, the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland and around the United Kingdom was impacted by an extreme marine heatwave, with sea surface temperatures as much as 5°C above average
•    During 2023, Europe as a whole saw around 7% more precipitation than average


3 Fichtelberg Mountain - Christoph Schaarschmidt
Fichtelberg Mountain © Christoph Schaarschmidt

•    Much of Europe experienced fewer snow days than average, particularly across central Europe and the Alps during winter and spring
•    The Alps saw exceptional glacier ice loss in 2023, linked to below-average winter snow accumulation and strong summer melt due to heatwaves


Glimmers of hope

•    2023 saw a record proportion of actual electricity generation by renewables in Europe, at 43%
•    Increased storm activity through October to December resulted in above-average potential for wind power production
•    Potential for run-of-river hydropower generation was above average across much of Europe


Dam Wet © Andrew McCaren
Dam Wet © Andrew McCaren


Monitoring of wind, solar radiation and hydrological variables is crucial for effective climate policy implementation in Europe, as it provides essential data for optimising renewable energy generation and mitigating carbon emissions.


Awaiting the Breeze © Steve Ball
Awaiting the Breeze © Steve Ball


Weather Photographer of the Year

The images used in this article are from the annual Standard Chartered Weather Photographer of the Year competition. Now in its 9th year, the competition is open until 18th June and for the first time there is a Climate Award – for the photograph that best tells a compelling story about climate change and its impacts. 

We want to draw attention to the fragility of our planet and raise awareness about the impact of our changing climate, improve our understanding of weather and climate, and inspire future action to address the climate crisis. The competition is open to photographers from around the world, of all age and abilities, and is FREE to enter.  


Categories: Climate In the Spotlight Weather
Tags: Climate Climate Change Extreme Weather Heatwaves News Observations Precipitation Temperature Weather WorldWeather WPotY

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