BERLIN – Europeans, particularly in the south of the continent, face more heat stress in the summer months as climate change causes longer periods of extreme weather, a study published on Thursday shows.
The European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said comparisons of data going back decades show last year’s record-breaking heat led to dangerous conditions for human health.
“Southern Europe experienced a record number of days of ‘very severe heat stress,'” defined as temperatures of 38 to 46 degrees Celsius (100 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit), it said.
The number of summer days with “severe” (32 to 38 degrees Celsius) or “very severe” heat stress is increasing across the continent, while so are southern Europe for days with “extreme heat stress” above 46 degrees, Copernicus said.
“There is also a decreasing trend in the number of days without heat stress,” she added.
Heat stress is increasingly recognized as a significant problem globally as the planet warms due to human-caused climate change. Experts say it can cause a variety of health problems, including skin rashes, dehydration, and heat stroke.
The warning was part of the annual Copernicus European State of the Climate report, which confirmed that 2022 was the continent’s second warmest year on record. Last summer was the hottest on record across Europe from 1991-2020, at 1.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 Fahrenheit) above the reference period. In the Svalbard region in the Arctic, summer temperatures were even 2.5 degrees Celsius above average, it said.
High temperatures and low rainfall also led to widespread drought, while summer wildfires caused the highest carbon emissions in 15 years, Copernicus said.
This led to a record melting of Alpine glaciers, with more than five cubic kilometers of ice disappearing, sources said.
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