Europe heatwave a sign of things to come under climate change
Release Date 28 June 2019
Extreme temperatures across Europe will be seen more frequently in future due to the effects of climate change, scientists at the University of Reading warn.
The heatwave in Europe this week has seen temperatures soar above 40°C in France, with records smashed for June temperatures in Germany, France, Poland and the Czech Republic both recording record June temperatures on Thursday or Friday.
Scientists at the University of Reading say these high temperatures will become more common in decades to come due to climate change. They also warn that such extreme heat is dangerous to people’s health and require a rethink of how things like buildings are designed to cope with it.
The heatwave follows a week-long Reading campaign to highlight the importance of environmental science and efforts to fight climate change by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. This included a #ShowYourStripes day on Friday 21 June, when thousands of people shared a climate stripes graphics for countries around the globe by Reading’s Professor Ed Hawkins from showyourstripes.info.
The stripes graphic was first created by Professor Hawkins in 2017. It illustrates how global temperatures have risen since the 19th century due to human-caused climate change.
Len Shaffrey, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading said: “Global temperatures are increasing due to climate change. The global rise in temperatures means the probability that an extreme heatwave will occur is also increasing.
“For example, recent studies have assessed that climate change has at least doubled the probability of extremes such as the 2018 European heatwave."
Professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading, said: “The record-breaking hot weather in mainland Europe is continuing, and it is these extended periods of heat without respite that can be lethal.
“Authorities are better prepared now than in 2003 to keep vulnerable people out of harm's way. Early warning systems need to take into account not only temperature, but also humidity, wind conditions, and differences from the norm.
“While people sometimes comment that Brits moan about even the slightest bit of heat, that's actually an indication that we are not used to hot conditions. That's important, and has to be factored into warnings. People who are not used to extreme heat tend to do stupid things that put themselves, and others, at risk.”
Dr Jon Shonk, research scientist at the University of Reading said: “In a future climate, there will still be fluctuations in temperature, bringing periods of warmer and colder weather. But if we ask whether there will be an increased chance of heatwaves exceeding a temperature threshold, of say, 30 degrees Celcius, then the answer is yes. A warmer climate implies that the ‘baseline’ temperature is rising. This means that the fluctuations in temperature around this baseline will surpass the temperature threshold more often.
“A single heatwave event, however, cannot be taken as evidence of climate change. Long-term changes need to be considered.”