Cyclone Michaung wreaks havoc in Southern India

Cyclone Michaung wreaks havoc in Southern India as it intensifies into a severe storm. Warmer oceans are the primary reason for the storm which is closely linked to Arctic Sea ice... READ MORE

Confirmed: 2023 set to be the warmest year on record

The WMO provisional State of the Global Climate report confirms that 2023 is set to be the warmest year on record, regardless of the final two months of... READ MORE

Colossal Antarctic iceberg, five times larger than New York City, breaks free and drifts away from region

On November 24th, scientists from the Bristish Antarctic Survey (BAS) were astonished to observe an iceberg measuring around 4,000 square kilometers (more than twice the size of Greater London) drifting away from the... READ MORE

World surpasses critical warming threshold for the first time

On November 17th, global temperatures reached 2.07°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time on record.... READ MORE

Unexpected disintegration of ice shelves in North Greenland

Alarm bells ringing as rapid disintegration and weakening of ice shelves in North Greenland is observed!... READ MORE

COUNTDOWN

CO2 Budget Depletion

How does the Arctic affect

Climate Vulnerability
Europe?

Evidence of a warm summer in the European Arctic came early–and has lingered–with the increased melt and heat in the summer shoulder seasons. This abnormal heat, however, has lingered throughout much of Eurasia.

Other Languages

An especially warm Arctic, currently heating four times the global average (Rantananen et al., 2022), creates a more meandering jet stream (Moon et al., 2022) that has led to the extended heating events that have been felt throughout the continents this year.

By blocking incoming weather systems, this prolonged heating has created heat domes and droughts and has primed the environment for devastating wildfires. The changing nature of the jet stream means that Europe is likely to become a literal hotspot for increasing heat waves compared with comparable mid-latitude regions elsewhere in the world (Rousi et al, 2022).

According to the European State of the Climate 2022 report, the summer of 2022 brought exceptional heatwaves,  temperatures 10°C warmer than typical in summer and increasing lake and sea temperatures to the European continent. Across Europe, recent heatwaves had extensive consequences. An estimated 53,000 excess deaths, in July 2022 alone, were attributed to the summer heatwaves (Reuters, 2022).

These heatwaves also result in higher surface ozone concentrations and degraded air quality. This could lead to an increase in deaths from ozone pollution which, according to the World Health Organisation, has been estimated to reach ~1 million per year (Copernicus, 2022).

Paired with the heat, Europe is currently suffering its most severe drought in over 500 years, with the Global Drought Observatory (2022) citing 47% of the continent’s soil has dried up and numerous states declaring national emergencies. The concurrent energy crisis throughout Europe reduces access to goods and electricity, thereby increasing vulnerability to extreme weather conditions.

Germany features in the list of 20 countries identified as the most at risk of climate related disasters over the decade 2000-2019 (Global Climate Risk Index 2021). Socio-economic impacts of climate change have a negative impact on people’s livelihoods and wider economies. Read more on our Socio Economic Impacts page.

Regional STORIES

(Scroll for English translation /Desplácese para la traducción al inglés)

España se encuentra en el epicentro de una ola de calor severa que está batiendo récords en toda Europa. Los datos capturados por los satélites Sentinel 3 de la Agencia Espacial Europea mostraron que la temperatura del suelo superó los 60°C en Extremadura, en el centro-oeste de España. Las temperaturas del aire siguen subiendo y se espera que superen los 40°C en los próximos días. Se prevé que el récord de la temperatura más alta de Europa, 48,8°C, establecido en Sicilia en 2021, se rompa la próxima semana, probablemente también en Italia. 

El año pasado, se atribuyó el calor como factor en 61.000 muertes adicionales sobre las tasas normales en Europa. Los países del Mediterráneo fueron los más afectados. 

Existen varios sistemas detrás de esta ola de calor. Uno de ellos es el sistema meteorológico que se llama Cerberus, un sistema de alta presión que se ha desplazado a España desde el Sahara. Otro aspecto es que el océano Atlántico oriental y el mar Mediterráneo han estado excepcionalmente cálidos este verano, lo que significa que los cuerpos de agua no proporcionan efectos refrescantes. En tercer lugar, el patrón oceánico de El Niño del sureste del Pacífico, que es el pico cálido de una oscilación de temperatura que ocurre de forma natural en el Pacífico, está asociado con corrientes de aire más cálidas en todo el mundo. Se prevé que El Niño de este año continúe durante todo el invierno y se vea fuertemente exacerbado por el cambio climático inducido por el ser humano. Las temperaturas globales en los últimos 11 días han sido las más altas en 125.000 años. De hecho, se espera que este El Niño actual empuje temporalmente el calentamiento global más allá del límite de 1,5°C establecido por el Acuerdo de París. 

Aunque el Ártico esté lejos del Sahara y del Pacífico sur, en realidad tiene una fuerte influencia sobre los patrones climáticos globales. El rápido derretimiento de la nieve y el hielo reduce el albedo, o reflectividad, del Ártico, lo que significa que más luz solar se absorbe como calor en el Ártico. En primer lugar, esto contribuye al calentamiento global en general, lo que refuerza los efectos de El Niño y otras oscilaciones climáticas naturales. Además, significa que el Ártico se está calentando cuatro veces más rápido que el planeta en su conjunto. Esto, a su vez, perturba los patrones de circulación atmosférica, que se producen como resultado de las diferencias de calor. Esta perturbación hace que sea más probable que ocurran sistemas meteorológicos como Cerberus en todo el hemisferio norte. 

A medida que El Niño continúa desarrollándose, es probable que sigamos viendo condiciones climáticas extremas en toda Europa y el mundo. Haga clic aquí para ver a la Dra. Jennifer Francis explicar por qué se espera que el El Niño de 2023 sea diferente.  

English: 

Spain is at the epicentre of a severe heatwave that is breaking records throughout Europe. Data captured from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 3 satellites showed that the land temperature toppled 60°C in Extremadura in central-western Spain. Air temperatures are still rising and are expected to exceed 4 in the coming days. The record for Europe’s highest temperature, 48.8°C, set in Sicily in 2021, is expected to be broken next week, likely also in Italy. 

Last year, heat was attributed as a factor in 61,000 excess deaths in Europe. Mediterranean countries were most affected. 

There are several systems behind this heat wave. One is the so-called Cerberus weather system, a high pressure system that has moved into Spain from the Sahara. Another aspect is the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea have been exceptionally warm this summer, meaning the bodies of water do not provide cooling effects. Third, the southeastern Pacific El Niño ocean pattern, which is the warm peak of an otherwise naturally occurring temperature oscillation in the Pacific, is associated with warmer air currents around the world. This year’s El Niño is expected to continue throughout the winter and is strongly exacerbated by human-induced climate change. Global temperatures over the past 11 days have already been the highest in 125,000 years. In fact, this current El Niño is expected to temporarily push global warming past the 1.5°C limit established by the Paris Agreement.  

Though the Arctic may be far from the Sahara and the south Pacific, it actually has a strong influence over global weather patterns. Rapidly melting snow and ice reduces the Arctic’s albedo, or reflectivity, meaning that more sunlight is absorbed as heat in the Arctic. Firstly, this contributes to overall global warming, which strengthens the effects of El Niño and other natural climate oscillations. Secondly, it means that the Arctic is warming four times faster than the planet as whole. This in turn disrupts atmospheric circulation patterns, which come about as a result of heat differentials. This disruption then makes weather systems like Cerberus more likely to occur throughout the Northern Hemisphere. 

As El Niño continues to develop, we are likely to continue to see extreme weather throughout Europe and the world. Click here to see Dr. Jennifer Francis explain why the 2023 El Niño is expected to be different. 

[This text was produced with the help of ChatGPT ]

May 2023 brought an early heatwave to Sweden, with temperatures expected to reach +10°C above normal.  

In the last millennium, heatwaves in Sweden occurred once every 20 years. Since 2000, they are occurring every 3-5 years, leading to a range of consequences, including wildfires and human health impacts. Such an increase in heatwaves would be impossible without human-caused climate change (Leach et al. 2020). 

While ice may be far from people’s minds as they swelter under the heat, the loss of Arctic sea ice is a major driver of abnormal temperatures in Sweden and around the world. As ice is lost, less solar radiation is reflected away from the Earth, and more is absorbed as heat. This results in warming around the world. This is most pronounced in the Arctic, where temperatures in the Arctic have risen at almost four times the global average rate in recent decades (Rantanen et al., 2022). This imbalance leads to disruptions in the Earth’s atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns, which can cause extreme weather events like this anticipated heatwave in Sweden.  

Sweden is vulnerable to Arctic-driven climate change in several ways, including: 

  1. Rising temperatures: Sweden’s average temperatures have increased by 1.8°C over the past century. This warming has led to melting glaciers, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent heatwaves, all of which have serious impacts on agriculture, forestry, and natural ecosystems.
  2. Changes in precipitation patterns: Climate change is bringing more extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall and flooding. This can cause significant damage to infrastructure, homes, and businesses.
  3. 3. Increased risk of wildfires: As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, Sweden is experiencing more frequent and intense wildfires. In 2018, the country experienced its worst wildfire season in 100 years, with more than 25,000 hectares of forest burned. Wildfires release carbon stored by vegetation into the atmosphere, further enhancing warming through the greenhouse effect.
  4. Coastal erosion and flooding: Rising sea levels and stronger storm surges put Sweden’s coastal regions at risk of erosion and flooding. This can have serious impacts on communities, infrastructure, and natural habitats.
  5. Loss of biodiversity: Climate change can cause shifts in ecosystems, which can lead to the loss of biodiversity. Sweden’s forests, wetlands, and Arctic tundra are all vulnerable to such changes, with potential impacts on species such as reindeer, Arctic foxes, and migratory birds.

Overall, these impacts are likely to have significant social, economic, and environmental consequences for Sweden, and highlight the urgent need to address climate change on a global scale. 

Hotter temperatures and more rainfall as a result of climate change could increase the spread of vector-borne diseases, like Dengue fever, to more parts of Europe.

Dengue fever is a serious illness transmitted by Aedes mosquito bites. Usually found in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, South America, Africa and Pacific islands, one species of Aedes mosquito, the Asian Tiger mosquito, is now widespread in Southern Europe (Sky News, 2023).

A study in 2021 highlighted that there was “wide and increasing suitability” for Aedes mosquitoes in Europe (Olivera et al., 2021). Models  show that the environment is already suitable for this mosquito to survive in northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, southern France, Italy and the coastline between the western Balkans and Greece. the study also found that it was likely that suitable areas would expand into northern and eastern Europe – in fact “about 83% of urban areas are expected to become suitable in the future”, in contrast with around 49% now.

[The following information was generated with the help of GPT-4]

Are Aedes mosquitoes found in Europe?

Yes, Aedes mosquitoes can be found in some parts of Europe. Aedes mosquitoes are a genus of mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as dengue fever, Zika virus, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The two species of Aedes mosquitoes that are most commonly found in Europe are Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) and Aedes aegypti.

Aedes albopictus has become established in several countries in southern Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and Croatia. It is also present in some parts of central Europe, such as Switzerland and Germany. Aedes aegypti is less commonly found in Europe, but it has been reported in some areas of southern Europe, such as Madeira and the Canary Islands.

Is climate change making Aedes mosquitoes go further north?

Yes, climate change is believed to be contributing to the northward expansion of Aedes mosquitoes. As temperatures warm, these mosquitoes are able to survive in regions where they previously could not. Additionally, warmer temperatures may also lead to longer mosquito seasons and increased mosquito populations, which could lead to an increased risk of disease transmission.

Aedes albopictus, in particular, has been expanding its range in Europe over the past few decades, and this expansion has been attributed, in part, to climate change. Warmer temperatures have allowed this mosquito species to survive and reproduce in areas where it previously could not. Aedes aegypti, on the other hand, is still relatively rare in Europe, but there is concern that it could establish itself in new areas as temperatures continue to warm.

It’s important to note that climate change is just one of several factors that can contribute to the spread of Aedes mosquitoes, and there are other factors, such as human travel and trade, that can also play a role. However, the impact of climate change on mosquito populations is an area of ongoing research, and it’s clear that climate change is likely to have significant effects on the distribution and abundance of Aedes mosquitoes in the coming years.

In March 2023 Spain’s first major wildfire came early, in the midst of widespread drought on the border between Valencia and Aragon, an area facing a combination of a severe lack of rainfall, unseasonably high temperatures and strong winds (Le Monde).

[This article was generated with the help of GPT-4]

Spanish wildfires, like many other wildfires around the world, are connected to climate change in various ways. Climate change contributes to the increased frequency, intensity, and duration of wildfires by creating favourable conditions for them to ignite and spread. Here are some of the key connections between Spanish wildfires and climate change:

  1. Rising temperatures: Climate change has led to a general increase in temperatures across the globe. In Spain, this has resulted in hotter and drier conditions, which create an environment more prone to wildfires. Higher temperatures increase evaporation rates, leading to drier vegetation that can easily catch fire.
  2. Changes in precipitation patterns: Climate change has also altered precipitation patterns. In many parts of Spain, there has been a decrease in rainfall and an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts. These conditions result in drier soils and vegetation, increasing the risk of wildfires.
  3. Extended fire seasons: As temperatures rise and precipitation patterns change, fire seasons in Spain and other regions have become longer. This means that wildfires can occur earlier in the year and persist later into the fall, increasing the likelihood of more extensive and severe fires.
  4. Increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves: Climate change has led to more frequent and severe heatwaves, which can exacerbate wildfire risks. During heatwaves, vegetation becomes even drier and more susceptible to ignition. In addition, heatwaves can also lead to increased demand for electricity (for cooling), which can strain power grids and increase the risk of power line-related fires.
  5. Changes in vegetation and ecosystems: Climate change can cause shifts in vegetation types and ecosystems, making certain areas more prone to wildfires. For example, warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation can favor the growth of invasive and highly flammable plant species, which can increase the likelihood of fires.

Overall, climate change creates a more conducive environment for wildfires in Spain and other parts of the world. Efforts to mitigate climate change, better manage land use, and improve fire prevention and response strategies are crucial to reducing the risk and impact of wildfires in the future.

How does the Arctic affect wildfires in Spain?

Arctic climate change is connected to Spanish wildfires and other global climate events through complex interactions within the Earth’s climate system. Although the Arctic might seem distant from Spain, changes in the Arctic can influence weather and climate patterns in mid-latitudes, including Europe. Here are some ways Arctic climate change can be related to Spanish wildfires:

  1. Amplified warming in the Arctic: The Arctic region is warming at almost four times  faster than the global average, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. This is primarily due to the loss of sea ice, which exposes the darker ocean surface that absorbs more sunlight, leading to a positive feedback loop that accelerates warming. As a result, the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes is reduced, which can affect atmospheric circulation patterns.
  2. Jet stream changes: The jet stream is a band of strong westerly winds in the upper atmosphere that influences weather patterns in the mid-latitudes. The reduced temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes can weaken and alter the jet stream’s behaviour, making it more meandering and slow-moving. This can lead to more persistent weather patterns, such as prolonged heatwaves and droughts, which can increase the risk of wildfires in regions like Spain.
  3. Shifts in weather patterns: As Arctic climate change affects the jet stream and other atmospheric circulation patterns, it can contribute to changes in weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere. This can result in altered precipitation patterns, with some areas experiencing increased droughts and others receiving more rainfall. In the case of Spain, these changes can exacerbate the risk of wildfires by creating hotter and drier conditions.
  4. Increased frequency of extreme weather events: Arctic climate change has been linked to an increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms, and heavy precipitation events. These extreme events can contribute to the conditions that favour wildfires, either by directly increasing the risk of ignition or by creating long-term changes in ecosystems that make them more susceptible to fires.

While the relationship between Arctic climate change and Spanish wildfires is complex and influenced by multiple factors, it is clear that changes in the Arctic can have far-reaching effects on weather and climate patterns across the globe. Understanding these connections is crucial to predicting and managing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, societies, and economies around the world.

From June through August 2022, three back-to-back heat waves struck Europe, reaching a peak temperature of 47℃ in north Portugal on 14 July (IPMA, 2022).

During these events, 45% of the Portuguese mainland was in “extreme drought” whilst 55% experienced a “severe drought” (The Portugal News, 2022). Following this heat wave, the Portuguese Health Ministry reported over 1,000 heat-induced deaths (Demony, Pereira and Nunes, 2022), and Spain reported more than 510 (Al Jazeera, 2022; McCurty, 2022).

France, Spain and Portugal in summer of 2022 experienced devastating wildfires with particularly high fire radiative power values during the July and August 2022 heatwaves (Copernicus, 2022). By mid-July, approximately 80% of Portugal was under exceptional risk of wildfire, leading to a travel advisory by the UK’s Foreign Office (UK Foreign Office, 2022). 

Drought also affected the agricultural sector, with an estimated 25-30% reduction in the production of olive oil in Spain, leading to global shortages, as Spain’s harvest normally accounts for half of the world’s production (The Guardian, 2022).

Following these losses, a so-called “heatflation” gouge of both crops and livestock further threatened global food security (France24, 2022). These costs are added to other higher costs of living due to the European energy crisis and supply-chain disruptions.

Environmental reasons are behind some of these issues, but we must also acknowledge political and economic tensions – such as the war in Ukraine and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together, increased costs of goods and fuel paired with the reduction of renewables on the market contribute to people being less equipped to handle extremes in temperatures.

July 2022 brought a major uptick in forest fires throughout France’s southern and southwestern regions (Les services de l’État en Gironde, 2022a).

By mid-August, myriads of people had been evacuated from their homes in Gironde and Hostens (Les services de l’État en Gironde, 2022b ) and tens of thousands of hectares were destroyed.

The extreme drought plaguing France–like other parts of Europe–from the beginning of the year, predisposed the region to fire. By mid-August, three times as many hectares had burned compared with the decadal average (Service Infographie, 2022). 

Overwhelming the French forces, firefighters from as far away as Romania and Poland, along with helicopter crews from Italy, Greece and Sweden, fought August’s “mega-fire” in Gironde.

As with elsewhere in Europe, these fires were worsened by the extreme heat and drought, making the summer the driest ever recorded. Throughout the country, rainfall in July was down by more than 80%, in some areas exceeding 90% compared with past averages (Météo France, 2022).

Deaths in June 2022 were 8% above normal, largely attributed to heat-related cardiac events (Destatis, 2022a). By mid-July, this anomaly reached +16% to +23% (Destatis, 2022b).

Furthermore, Brandenburg also reported that, by August 2022, there was already a twofold increase in wildfires compared to 2021 (RBB24, 2022).

As the water levels of Germany’s Rhine River declined – dropping as much as 6cm over a 24-hour period on August 7th (Al Jazeera, 2022) – cargo ships were forced to reduce their transport volumes by as much as 75%. This leads to net costs rising as much as 500% for the same value of goods (Tagesschau, 2022).

The Rhine is a major shipping channel, handling as much as 80% of inland shipping of raw materials, from petrochemicals to grain (Ellyatt, 2022, Tagesschau, 2022).

These delays in shipping had serious implications on both the German and European economy, with effects cascading to other regions. Additionally, stressors – such as droughts – on European rivers are being considered as possible causes of the mass fish die-off in the nearby Oder River (Umweltbundesamt, 2022).

However, it is still somewhat unclear how droughts, high temperatures and low water levels affect critical European ecosystems in the long term.

Common sense suggests travel by train can be one of the most climate-friendly modes of transport. However, in the midst of the hottest July in 90 years last summer, passengers were asked to avoid train travel owing to tracks being at risk of buckling (Network Rail, 2022).

In mid-July, the Met Office issued a red warning that instigated a national emergency declaration. Due to the higher demand in electricity from the extreme temperatures, parts of England closely escaped a blackout (Blas, 2022). The National Grid purchased electricity at a record £9,724pwh from Belgium–a price increase of more than 5,000% over typical costs (BBC, 2022). 

In addition to struggling with expensive electricity, water companies restricted household water use. Yorkshire Water Ltd., became the fourth company to impose a hosepipe ban on its 5.4 million households and 140,000 businesses (Yorkshire Water, 2022).

The drought hammered the agricultural industry, forcing farmers to use their winter feedstock to keep their livestock fed, and with river levels at their lowest ever recorded, farmers across the country did not have enough water for irrigation (Suleiman and Ravikumar, 2022).

What can you do?

  • Do you want to help us make this page more complete? Reach out
  • Take a look at our RESOURCES to learn more on why the Arctic matters.
  • Take our three step TAKE ACTION challenge.
  • Check out our SOLUTIONS page.

ARCTIC RISK INDICATORS

The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.

Greenland rate of ice loss
13 million l/s
on average
13 million tonnes/s
on average
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
485,500 km²
below 1981-2010 average on 12-Apr-2024
187,451 mi²
below 1981-2010 average on 12-Apr-2024
Arctic Amplification
4 times
faster than global average
Arctic 66N+ Wildfire emissions
0.00 megatonnes CO₂e
CO₂e emissions in 2024 so far
Arctic Air Quality (PM2.5)
3.69 microgram per cubic meter
on 13-Apr-2024
Global mean Sea Level
3.4mm/year
since 1993