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CLIMATE CRISIS

How 2022 compares to Europe’s hottest summers

In just over two decades, Europe has experienced its five hottest summers since 1500. As temperatures rise above 40C across Europe this week here's a look at the history of recent heatwaves that have hit the continent.

How 2022 compares to Europe's hottest summers
Tactical firefighters in yellow suits, and supporting firefighters, set fires to burn a plot of land as they attempt to prevent the wild fire from spreading due to wind change, as they fight a forest fire near Louchats in Gironde, southwestern France on July 17, 2022. - France was on high alert on July 18, 2022, as the peak of a punishing heatwave gripped the country, while wildfires raging in parts of southwest Europe showed no sign of abating. (Photo by THIBAUD MORITZ / AFP)

Europe’s increasingly frequent heatwaves are back under the spotlight over devastating wildfires and with sweltering temperatures forecast to hit record highs in Britain and France this week.

On Monday July 18th the European Commission warned that more than half of the EU territory was a risk of suffering a drought due to the lack of recent rainfall and the scorching temperatures.

2022: Double trouble

A heatwave engulfing western Europe, the second in a month, sparks huge wildfires and threatens to smash records in Britain and France.

Fires in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain force thousands of residents and tourists to flee and kill several people, including a Spanish shepherd and a firefighter.

Firefighters stand on a road as heavy smoke is seen in the background during forest fires near the city of Origne, south-western France, on July 17, 2022. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Britain braces for an all-time high of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or more. Brittany in France could also register similar temperatures in what would be a regional record.

The weather warnings come hot on the heels of a scorching spell in June, where parts of Europe, from Spain to Germany, sizzled at unseasonal highs of between 40C to 43C.

2021: Hottest ever

Last year is Europe’s hottest summer on record, according to the European climate change monitoring service Copernicus.

Between late July and early August 2021, Greece endures what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis calls the country’s worst heatwave in over 30 years, with temperatures hitting 45C in some regions. In Spain, temperatures reach 47C in parts of the south, according to national weather agency AEMET.

A helicopter drops water as fires rage in Navalmoral de la Sierra near Avila at center of Spain on August 16, 2021. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

The heat and drought spark large wildfires along the Mediterranean, from Turkey and Greece to Italy and Spain.

2019: Northern Europe swelters

The summer of 2019 brings two heatwaves, which leave around 2,500 people dead, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters of Belgium’s Louvain University.

In France, temperatures hit a record 46C on June 28 in the southern town of Verargues. Thousands of schools are closed.

A picture taken on July 25, 2019 shows a board displayed in an office building and reading 41 Celsius in Stuttgart, as a new record high temperature was recorded in Germany, amid a Europe wide heatwave, breaking the previous hottest figure reached the previous day. (Photo by Marijan Murat / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

On July 24 and 25, northern Europe fries in record heat. Temperatures of 42.6C are recorded at Lingen in northwestern Germany, 41.8C in Begijnendijk in northern Belgium and 38.7C in the eastern English city of Cambridge.

2018: Drought drains the Danube

The second half of July and beginning of August 2018 sees very high temperatures across much of Europe and rivers running dry due to drought.

The Danube falls to its lowest level in 100 years in some areas, notably exposing World War II tanks in Serbia that were submerged since the conflict.

Portugal and Spain suffer hugely destructive forest fires.

2017: Months of mugginess

Much of Europe, but especially the south, sweats from late June to well into August.

Spain set a record of 47.3C on July 13 in the southern town of Montoro.

Persistent drought sparks forest fires in Portugal.

2015: Back-to-back heatwaves

It’s heatwave after heatwave throughout the summer of 2015 which leaves an estimated 1,700 people dead in France.

In Britain, roads melt and trains are delayed in the hottest July on record, with temperatures reaching 36.7C at Heathrow airport.

2007: Greek forests ablaze

Central and southern Europe are parched by drought throughout June and July, provoking a spate of forest fires in Italy, North Macedonia and Serbia.

Locals use branches to estinguish a fire in Kato Kotyli village in central Peloponnese 30 August 2007. The fires that wrought a trail of destruction across Greece for a week were mostly under control as people counted the cost of a disaster that has claimed 63 lives. (Photo by Yiannis Dimitras / AFP)

In Hungary, 500 people die as a result of the heat.

2003: 70,000 dead

Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal all experience exceptional heat in the first half of August, with Portugal suffering a record 47.3C at Amareleja in the south.

An EU study of 16 nations puts the number of excess deaths across the bloc during the heatwave as high as 70,000, with France and Italy each seeing between 15,000 and 20,000 fatalities, according to various reports since.

The 2003 heatwave in France caused the deaths of many elderly people and led to a change in the government’s approach to dealing with heatwaves. PHOTO JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo by Jean-Philippe KSIAZEK / AFP)

In France, most of the victims are elderly people in an episode that traumatises the country and leads to the implementation of new systems of protection during heatwaves.

Member comments

  1. Climate change is impacting us all but while it’s bad in Europe now both Africa and Asia get it worse.

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WEATHER

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Norway’s weather warning system

The weather in Norway can change rapidly and bring adverse conditions with it. Here’s what you need to know about weather alerts and what they mean. 

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Norway’s weather warning system

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET) uses three colours for its weather warnings. The first is yellow, which means challenging weather. 

When a yellow weather warning is in place, you will need to “be aware of” the conditions, and it can create challenging scenarios. Overall, the consequences of yellow weather incidents are expected to be relatively small. 

Those in the area are expected to be able to go about their business, but there may be local power outages, traffic delays, and wind which makes travelling in the mountains dangerous. 

Yellow warnings are also issued in instances where MET “expects greater consequences for far more people, but are unsure whether the weather will actually occur.”

For this reason, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute says that people should monitor the situation when a yellow warning is in place. 

Orange alerts are for when serious weather situations may occur, and the public is advised to “be prepared”. 

These weather warnings are issued when the institute expects extensive consequences, which could endanger lives and valuables may be lost. When an orange warning is in place, roads will be closed, planes will be grounded, and people will need to assess whether it is safe to carry out activities or not. 

Like yellow warnings, an orange weather warning can be issued when even more extreme weather is expected, but it isn’t 100 percent certain it may arrive. 

When extreme weather scenarios are expected, a red weather warning is issued. When a red weather warning is issued, the public is advised to secure their valuables. During red weather, it is “very likely there will be widespread damage, travel and power disruption and even risk to life,” according to Norwegian forecasting site Yr.

Avalanches  

The system for determining the risk of avalanches is slightly different. Norway follows the international standard for avalanches, meaning there are five danger levels, ranging from low avalanche danger to very high. 

These are colour coded from green to red. Yr, a joint service run by public broadcaster NRK and MET. Yr only displays orange and red avalanche warnings (danger level three to five). 

Where to check forecasts? 

The most popular service for checking the weather in Norway is “Yr” The service is run by the Meteorological Institute and NRK. 

You can either head to the website or download the app on IOS or Android to use the service. 

You will receive warnings of adverse weather conditions there. On the website, you can check specifically to see whether there are any weather warnings across Norway.

On varsom, you can find information on floods, landslides and avalanches. 

If you have an activity planned with a guide, such as off-piste skiing or hiking, you should also speak to them about conditions. The same applies to local tourist offices due to their local knowledge and expertise. 

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