The Copernicus Climate Change Service today releases its annual European State of the Climate (ESOTC) report, detailing the significant climate events of 2022 in Europe and across the globe. These data-driven insights show rising temperatures and intensifying extreme events, and give an overview of 2022’s climate in a long-term context.
Key findings for Europe:
- Europe experienced its second warmest year ever recorded
- Europe saw its hottest summer on record
- Much of Europe suffered intense and prolonged heatwaves
- Southern Europe experienced the highest number of days with ’very strong heat stress’ on record
- Low rainfall and high temperatures led to widespread drought
- Carbon emissions from summer wildfires were the highest in 15 years, with some countries seeing the highest emissions in 20 years
- The European Alps saw a record loss of ice from glaciers
- There was a record number of sunshine hours for Europe
Key findings for the Arctic:
- The Arctic experienced its sixth warmest year on record
- The Svalbard region saw its warmest summer on record – the average summer temperature in some areas reached more than 2.5°C above average
- Greenland experienced record-breaking ice sheet melt during exceptional heatwaves in September
Key findings for renewable energy resources:
- Europe received its highest amount of surface solar radiation in 40 years, resulting in above average potential solar photovoltaic power generation across most of Europe
- Potential power generation from onshore wind was below-average in most of Europe, especially in southern central regions.
Globally, the last eight years have been the warmest on record. In 2022, the global annual average concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) reached their highest levels ever measured by satellite. Europe experienced its hottest summer on record, compounded by several extreme events including intense heatwaves, drought conditions and extensive wildfires, according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Temperatures across Europe are rising at twice the global average rate; faster than any other continent.
C3S publishes the European State of the Climate report 2022 (ESOTC 2022) to provide deeper insights into the European climate, based on its free and open climate data. Mauro Facchini, Head of Earth Observation at the Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space, European Commission, comments: "The IPCC’s latest synthesis report warns that we are running out of time, and that global warming has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, as is the case for Europe. Only accurate information and data on the current state of the climate can help us achieve the goals we have set, and the European State of the Climate report is an essential tool to support the European Union with its climate adaptation agenda and commitment to reach climate neutrality by 2050."
European temperatures - records broken and impacts on health
Increasing temperature is an important climate indicator, and highlights Europe’s changing climate. The data show that the average for Europe for the latest 5-year period was around 2.2°C above the pre-industrial era (1850-1900). 2022 was the second warmest year on record, at 0.9°C above a recent average (using the reference period of 1991-2020). Last summer was the hottest on record for Europe, at 1.4°C above the recent average.
Extremes in heat during the late spring and summer resulted in hazardous conditions for human health. Due to the extreme heatwaves during summer, southern Europe experienced a record number of days with ‘very strong heat stress’. Europe is seeing an upward trend in the number of summer days with ‘strong’ or ‘very strong heat stress’, and in southern Europe the same is seen for ‘extreme heat stress’. There is also a decreasing trend in the number of days with ‘no heat stress’.
Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), comments: “The report highlights alarming changes to our climate, including the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe, marked by unprecedented marine heatwaves in the Mediterranean Sea and record-breaking temperatures in Greenland. Understanding the climate dynamics in Europe is crucial for our efforts to adapt and mitigate the negative impacts climate change has on the continent.”
Europe’s increasing temperatures are part of an upward trend that has been affecting the world during the last decades. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will address these trends in the global climate in its upcoming State of the Global Climate 2022.
Drought in Europe: lack of rainfall and snow
One of the most significant events affecting Europe in 2022 was the widespread drought. During the winter of 2021-2022, much of Europe experienced fewer snow days than average, with many areas seeing up to 30 fewer days. In spring, precipitation was below average across much of the continent, with May seeing the lowest precipitation on record for the month. The lack of winter snow and the high summer temperatures resulted in a record loss of ice from glaciers in the Alps, equivalent to a loss of more than 5 km3 of ice. The low precipitation amounts, which continued throughout summer, together with the exceptional heatwaves, also caused a widespread and prolonged drought that affected several sectors, such as agriculture, river transport and energy.
The annual soil moisture anomaly was the second lowest in the last 50 years with only isolated areas seeing wetter-than-average soil moisture conditions. Furthermore, river flow for Europe was the second lowest on record, marking the sixth year in a row with below average flows. In terms of the area affected, 2022 was the driest year on record, with 63% of Europe’s rivers seeing lower-than-average flows.
Summer wildfire carbon emissions in Europe: The highest since 2007
For Europe as a whole, above-average fire danger conditions were seen throughout most of the year. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) scientists monitoring of wildfires around the world tracked significant increases in wildfire carbon emissions for some European regions in summer 2022, following the hot and dry conditions. The total estimated emissions across the EU countries for summer 2022 were the highest since 2007. France, Spain, Germany and Slovenia also experienced their highest summer wildfire emissions for at least the last 20 years, with southwestern Europe seeing some of the largest fires on record in Europe.
Exceptional temperatures in the Arctic
The Arctic region is experiencing drastic changes in its climate. Temperatures over the Arctic have risen much more rapidly than those over most of the rest of the globe. 2022 was the sixth warmest year on record for the Arctic as a whole, and fourth warmest year for Arctic land areas. One of the Arctic regions most affected in 2022 was Svalbard, which experienced its warmest summer on record, with some areas seeing temperatures exceeding 2.5°C above average.
During 2022, Greenland also experienced extreme climate conditions, including exceptional heat and rainfall in September, a time of year when snow is more typical. Average temperatures for the month were up to 8°C higher than average (the highest on record), and the island was affected by three different heatwaves. This combination caused record ice sheet melt, with at least 23% of the ice sheet impacted at the peak of the first heatwave.
Renewable Energy Resources
The ESOTC 2022 report also examined some aspects of the potential to generate renewable energy in Europe. Regarding these conditions, Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director at C3S says, “Greenhouse gas emission reductions are imperative for mitigating the worst effects of climate change. Understanding and responding to the changes and variability in renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, are critical to support the energy transition to NetZero. Accurate and timely data improves the profitability of this energy transition”.
In 2022, Europe received its highest amount of surface solar radiation in 40 years. As a result, potential solar photovoltaic power generation was above average across most of the continent. It is worth noting that the high surface solar radiation in 2022 is consistent with a marked positive trend observed over the same 40-year period.
Meanwhile, the annual average wind speed for European land in 2022 was virtually equal to its 30-year average. It was below average in most of western, central, and northeastern Europe, but above average in eastern and southeastern Europe. This meant that potential power generation from onshore wind was below-average in most of Europe, especially in southern central regions.
When it comes to renewable energy resources in Europe and their relationship to climate, it is important to understand the conditions and trends in energy production, and also how climate affects energy demand. In 2022, demand for electricity was below average in most areas, linked to above-average temperatures during the non-summer months, reducing the need for heating. However, demand was higher than average in southern Europe due to the extreme heat during summer which increased demand for air conditioning.