Europe shatters all-time summer temperature records (set last year)

Another year, another slew of new high temperature records due to climate change.

The summer months of June, July and August set a new record in Europe in 2022 for the hottest average temperatures ever recorded, according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, measuring 0.4° Celsius (0.72° Fahrenheit) higher then the previous all-time record set in 2021.

“An intense series of heat waves across Europe paired with unusually dry conditions, have led to a summer of extremes with records in terms of temperature, drought and fire activity in many parts of Europe, affecting society and nature in various ways,” Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist with the Copernicus Climate Change Service, told the BBC. “The data shows that we’ve not only had record August temperatures for Europe but also for summer, with the previous summer record only being one year old.”

Globally, this summer has ranked as the third warmest on record, but Europe endured a string of brutal heat waves, an explosive wildfire season and the continent's worst drought in 500 years that has led to instances of crop failure.

The month of August was much warmer than usual, the data from Copernicus Climate Service showed, with average temperatures 0.8° C hotter than the previous record set in 2018.

People in Galway, Ireland, enduring a heat wave
People in Galway, Ireland, enduring a heat wave, Aug. 11. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

On July 19, the United Kingdom blew past its previous high temperature record of 38.7° C (101.7° F) set in 2019, hitting 40.2° C (104.4° F). Scientists have concluded that the extreme heat was “extremely unlikely” without man-made climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels. The heat wave was devastating in the northern areas of the country, where houses are built to store heat for a climate that rarely sees such high temperatures. Deaths caused by extreme heat rose by 7% above normal, according to the U.K. Health Security Agency.

“Even the most pessimistic models didn’t expect that the cold British Isles would reach 40 degrees [Centigrade], and that’s happening before our eyes,” Amir Givati, an environmental studies professor at Tel Aviv University, told Haaretz, “faster and more powerfully than what we forecasted.”

That same week, Portugal set its own new temperature record, hitting 47° C (117° F), and records were also broken across parts of Spain, France, Belgium and other European countries.

Climate scientists point out that since 1999, the number of high temperature records being broken globally has outpaced the number of new low temperature records by a ratio of 2:1. In a stable climate, that ratio should be 1:1.

During the summer of 2022, tourists endured abnormally high temperatures in the Greek islands of Crete
During the summer of 2022, tourists endured abnormally high temperatures in the Greek islands of Crete. (Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Data also shows that global average temperatures have risen by 1.2° C (2.2° F) since the start of the Industrial Revolution, when mankind began pumping unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science found that a series of tipping points caused by rising temperatures may now be unavoidable, initiating so-called feedback loops that will make climate change even worse going forward.

“We can see signs of destabilization already in parts of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, in permafrost regions, the Amazon rainforest, and potentially the Atlantic overturning circulation as well,” the study’s lead author, David Armstrong McKay, who is affiliated with the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the University of Exeter, said in a statement. “The world is already at risk of some tipping points. As global temperatures rise further, more tipping points become possible.”