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Europe saw hottest summer on record in 2021

April 22, 2022

Countries were hit with "severe and long-lasting" heat waves last summer, EU scientists have revealed in a new report. Experts believe the conditions contributed to wildfires and deadly flooding across Europe in 2021.

In this August 2021 file photo, smoke rises from a wildfire in Pescara, Italy
The summer heat wave of 2021 contributed to numerous forest fires in the Mediterranean region, including in Pescara in ItalyImage: Italian Firefighters/AP/dpa/picture alliance

The summer of 2021 was the hottest summer Europe has experienced on record, EU scientists reported on Friday.

According to the annual report published by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the temperature in Europe was 1 degree Celsius above the 1991-2020 average.

Italy even recorded a provisional heat record for the whole of Europe, hitting 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sicily last August. A particularly bad heat wave in the Mediterranean helped to ignite severe wildfires in Greece, Turkey, and Italy.

Globally, the last seven years have been the warmest on record, C3S reported in January.

The EU scientific information agency's records date back to 1979, but it also uses records from ground stations, balloons, aircraft and satellites going back to 1950.

Record rains led to disaster in Germany

The climate researchers also took a closer look at the flood disaster that hit Germany in mid-July 2021, which claimed the lives of more than 180 people in the western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Record rains were recorded on July 14, 2021 over Belgium and western Germany. According to the C3S report, the previous weeks had seen extremely heavy rainfall in the region, so the soil was no longer able to absorb sufficient water.

In this July 15, 2021 file photo, severe damage from flooding can be seen in the German village of Dernau
Following heavy rainfall in July 2021, the Ahr River in western Germany burst its banks and flooded entire villages, including Dernau (pictured above)Image: Christoph Hardt/Future Image/imago images

The report also found that sea surface temperatures last year in parts of the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas were the highest since satellite records began in the early 1990s.

"Parts of the Baltic were 5 C above average, which is quite a lot," said the report's lead author, Freja Vamborg.

World needs to reduce emissions

Scientists believe that the most catastrophic consequences of climate change can only be averted if global warming is limited to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, as countries pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"We are facing a lot of challenges," said Mauro Facchini, head of the Copernicus Unit at the EU.

According to Facchini, record-breaking temperatures in 2021 and extreme weather made it clear that countries urgently need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to avoid further warming that would trigger even more destructive weather events.

dh/nm (dpa, Reuters)