Air temperature in the Arctic was -19.25°C on 2023-03-23. This is 0.15°C higher than 90th percentile of climatology period... READ MORE
Air temperature in the Arctic was -19.28°C on 2023-03-22. This is 0.27°C higher than 90th percentile of climatology period... READ MORE
Today the final synthesis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 6th Assessment Report cycle was released. This synthesis report restates that it is "now or never" to act, and that we are well on... READ MORE
Arctic sea ice has likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.62 million square kilometres (5.64 million square miles) on March 6, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at... READ MORE
Tropical cyclone Freddy is set to make more international records--including possibly one for the longest-lasting storm, later this... READ MORE
CO2 Budget Depletion
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).
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.
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).
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.