Forest fires in France 2022. Photo by Christophe Marchal, CTIF
24 Apr 2023

Europe's summers are getting hotter than ever - 2023 could be another extreme forest fire year


2022 was an exceptional year for the climate in Europe. Dry rivers, droughts, forest fires in southern Europe, and heat waves as far north as Greenland. The expected problems for 2023 is outlined in the the annual report from Copernicus, the EU's environmental monitoring authority.

Photo Credit: Forest fires in France 2022. Photo by Christophe Marchal, CTIF

The temperature continues to rise twice as fast in Europe as the global average according to the researchers. In recent years, Europe has been 2.2 degrees warmer compared to the end of the 18th century when the great industrialization took off.

According to Eureporter.co, extreme weather is becoming more common, and several climate records were broken last year. Last year was the second warmest on record.

It was a year of extreme weather in Europe in 2022. The summer was record hot with temperatures above 45 degrees C /113 F  leading to many deaths due to overheating. Droughts and fires were also an unusually big problems in many areas. This has been made clear in the 2022 annual report from the EU's environmental monitoring program Copernicus. Scientists believe that the extreme heat will get even worse in southern Europe and are already warning of droughts this upcoming summer.

The British Isles recorded extended periods of summer temperatures with  above 40 degrees for the first time ever on record in July 2022.

It was just one of many and persistent heat waves across western and southern Europe last summer where the highest temperature was measured in Portugal at 47 degrees C / 117 F.

Europe's highest recorded temperature was recorded in Sicily in 2021 at 48.8° C / 120 F. But with rising average temperatures, it may be a matter of time before we exceed 50 degrees,  according to Copernicus.

The number of days experienced as uncomfortably hot in southern Europe was higher than ever previously recorded, according to Copernicus. Days defined as bringing "considerable heat stress" were days when the temperatures feels like it's above 38 degrees C /100 F .

According to the WHO, at least 15,000 people died due to the heat in Europe in 2022. 

"The report highlights alarming changes in our climate, including the hottest summer recorded in Europe", says Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus Climate Change. 


Warnings of drought

It is already dry in Spain and Italy, where some snowfall has been recorded during the winter. Many fear a repeat of last year's drought, which hit agriculture hard.

The water reserves have not been replenished in many countries like Spain, who was affected very severely last year. The snow cover in the Alps has been poor. There is a risk that there will be similar or worse conditions compared with 2022 if there is not much precipitation this spring, says Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus. 


Can exceed 50 degrees

Europe's highest recorded temperature of all time was recorded in Sicily in 2021 (48.8°). But with rising average temperatures, it may be a matter of time before 50 degrees is passed according to Copernicus. The ongoing climate changes caused by human emissions increase the likelihood of extreme weather such as heat waves.

"We cannot say for sure that there will be record heat in 2023, but with higher concentrations of greenhouse gases, more warm years are likely", says Samantha Burgess.


The main observations for Europe:

· Europe experienced its second warmest year since Copernicus measurements started in 1979

· Europe experienced its hottest summer

· Large parts of Europe were hit by intense, prolonged heat waves

· Southern Europe experienced the highest number of measured days with very strong heat stress

· Low rainfall and high temperatures led to widespread drought

· Carbon dioxide emissions from forest fires during the summer were the highest in 15 years, in some countries in 20 years

· The European Alps experienced record glacier declines

· A record number of sunshine hours were measured in Europe

· Greenland experienced record ice melt during exceptional heat waves in September