One Hot Summer or Global Warming? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.08.2003
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One Hot Summer or Global Warming?

Despite subsequent years of freak weather, scientist can't say whether we should get used to heat waves in Europe. The verdict is still out on a global climate change.


Seeking relief from climate change on the Mediterranean

Europe is sweltering in the heat of one of the hottest summers anyone can remember. That's global warming, people say as they sit under the trees in Germany's beer gardens. For years scientists have been telling us the climate is heating up and that we should start getting used to hotter summers and warmer winters.

The current heat wave that's battering Europe is an indication of global warming, Professor Christian-Dietrich Schönwiese of the University of Frankfurt's Institute for Meteorology told DW-WORLD. "Experts are largely of the opinion that it is global warming. Those who are skeptical are in most cases not experts," he said.

Throughout the continent Europeans are baking under the intense sun while drought destroys the season's crops. Vacationers on the Mediterranean are getting little relief from bathing in the 32 degree Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit) water. And in Portugal and Spain firefighters are battling to put out some of the worst forest fires in recent history. Already 16 people have died in the blazing inferno.

Warm weather trend?

Climate change has indeed occurred, but it's not a question of a decade or two of change, rather it's about three or ten. The climate has warmed up by 0.7° C in the past 100 years. Since the 1970s it has warmed up by 1° C in Germany.

"We are seeing more frequent segments of warm weather," Schönwiese explained. Over the past century Germany had very hot summers in 1994, 1992, 1983 and 1947, he said.

While some parts of the world, like Central Africa, are actually getting cooler, most places are warming up, Schönwiese said.

More freak weather?

But the jury is still out on whether extreme weather conditions like the current heat wave or last year's devastating floods in Germany and other parts of Central Europe are becoming more common. "As the global temperatures continue to warm due to climate change, the number and intensity of extreme events might increase," the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a statement in July.

Scientists still can't say for sure that freak weather will become the norm because the data they have isn't conclusive. "It would be wrong to draw such conclusions from this summer. But when you look at the data from 100 years, you see that global warming does exist," Schönwiese said. The only thing for sure is that the climate is changing. But it's not necessarily doing it before our very eyes.

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