The Arctic sizzled in 2020, the hottest year for Europe too
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Europe suffered record heat and precipitation last year, while temperatures in Arctic Siberia soared, the European Union’s climate monitoring service reported on Thursday.
The continent in 2020 was nearly half a degree Celsius warmer than the hottest next year, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
This meant that Europe was more than 2 ° C warmer than in a world unaffected by carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels – and well above the temperature limits enshrined in the Paris Agreement on the climate.
The 2015 treaty instructs nearly 200 countries to cap global warming at “well below” two degrees from mid-19th century levels, and 1.5 ° C if possible.
Globally, average surface temperatures have risen by about 1.2 ° C above the pre-industrial benchmark, the report notes.
The six years since 2015 are the hottest on record, as have 20 of the last 21 – clear evidence of a feverish planet.
“The trend over three years, five years, ten years is unequivocal,” Jean-Noël Thepaut, director of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which includes the C3S, told AFP.
“This is the big picture. Urgent action is needed.”
According to current trends, heat waves could render large parts of the tropics unliveable by mid-century, and rising sea levels could displace tens or even hundreds of millions of people, scientists warn. .
“Looking at the temperature on a global scale, the last 10 to 15 years have shown an acceleration, the same is true for sea level,” Thepaut said in an interview.
“For other indicators it’s less clear, but all the trends are heading in the wrong direction.”
In the fall and winter of 2020, Europe was not only warmer than usual, but more humid, especially in its north-central regions.
In early October, storm Alex was the first of the 2020-2021 winter storm season.
– ‘A spectacular year’ –
Unusually heavy precipitation broke one-day records in Britain, northwestern France and the Southern Alps.
The French and Italian flanks of the Maritime Alps experienced daily downpours reaching more than three times the typical average throughout the month in some places.
Rivers overflowing from their banks in several parts of Western Europe have caused devastating flooding.
And if Europe warmed, the data showed the top of the world was on fire – literally, in some areas.
“One region in particular stands out,” Freja Vamborg, lead author of the report and lead scientist at CS3, told reporters. “The Arctic has truly had a spectacular year.”
For the Arctic as a whole, 2020 was the second warmest year on record, with a surface temperature 2.2 ° C above the 1981-2010 average and around 3 ° C above. above pre-industrial levels.
In northern Siberia, the thermometer climbed more than 6 ° C above the late 20th century benchmark for the year as a whole, with dry conditions and record fire activity in the summer, including “zombie fires” that rekindled after sleeping. Winter.
For adjacent Arctic seas, sea ice has reached an all-time high for most of the summer and fall.
“It was by far the hottest year on record in Arctic Siberia,” Vamborg said.
Meanwhile, atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) have each risen by about half a percent to reach their highest level ever.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has now increased by 50 percent compared to pre-industrial times, reaching about 516 parts per million (ppm).
The State of the Climate in Europe 2021 report is the fourth published by the EU’s climate monitoring service.
© 2021 AFP