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Heat and floods: 2023 was a year of extremes in Europe

Heat and floods: 2023 was a year of extremes in Europe
According to the State of the Climate in Europe (ESOTC) report, around 1.6 million people were affected by floods last year and more than half a million people were affected by storms.

This is what the European climate change service Copernicus and the World Weather Organization WMO wrote in a report published on Monday. Overall, last year – depending on the data set – was the second warmest or, along with 2020, the warmest year in Europe. “2023 was a complex and multifaceted year when it comes to climate threats in Europe,” said Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) Director Carlo Buontempo. “We witnessed widespread flooding, but also extreme forest fires with high temperatures and severe droughts.” These events not only put a strain on natural ecosystems, but also posed major challenges to agriculture, water management and public health.

  • More on this: “Red Alert”: 2014 to 2023 hottest decade since records began

Floods, storms, damage

According to the State of the Climate in Europe (ESOTC) report, around 1.6 million people were affected by floods last year and more than half a million people were affected by storms. The weather and climate-related damage is estimated at well over 10 billion euros. “Unfortunately, it is unlikely that these numbers will decrease in the near future,” said Buontempo, referring to advancing climate change.

Averaged across Europe, eleven months were warmer than average last year. September was even the warmest since records began in 1940. Overall, a record number of days with so-called extreme heat stress were recorded, i.e. temperatures that felt like they exceeded 46 degrees. The number of heat-related deaths has increased by an average of 30 percent over the past 20 years.

Overall, there was seven percent more rain than average last year. It was one of the wettest years recorded so far, the report says. In a third of the river network in Europe, water volumes were recorded that exceeded the flood threshold. There were severe floods in Italy and Greece, among others, and parts of northern Germany were affected at the end of the year.

  • Also read: March warmer than any previous one

Seas warmer than ever before

On average, the seas around the European coasts were warmer than ever since at least 1980. It was also far too warm on the glaciers. “After the record ice loss in 2022, it was another extraordinary year of losses in the Alps,” write Copernicus and WMO. In these two years, the glaciers in the Alps lost around ten percent of their volume.

At the same time, according to the report, the conditions for the production of green electricity in 2023 were very favorable; at 43 percent, its share of the overall electricity mix was higher than ever before.

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