The State of the Climate in Europe report, produced jointly with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, focused on 2021.
It provides information about rising temperatures, heat waves on land and sea, extreme weather conditions, changing precipitation patterns and the retreat of ice and snow.
The report states that temperatures in Europe warmed significantly between 1991 and 2021, at an average rate of about +0.5 °C per decade. As a result, Alpine glaciers lost 30 meters of ice thickness from 1997 to 2021.
The Greenland ice sheet is melting, contributing to the acceleration of sea level rise. In the summer of 2021, Greenland experienced a melting event and the first ever recorded precipitation at its highest point, the summit station.
In 2021, major impact weather and climate events are leading to Hundreds of casualties, directly affecting more than half a million people and causing over US$50 billion in economic damage. About 84 percent of the events were floods or storms.
As the climate continues to change, the health of Europeans is expected to be affected in a number of ways, including death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
An increase in zoonoses, in which diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, is expected, as are food, water and vector-borne diseases and a rising incidence of mental health disorders.
The deadliest extreme climate events in Europe occur in in the form of heat wavesespecially in western and southern countries.
The combination of climate change, urbanization and population aging in the region creates and will further exacerbate vulnerability to heat.
However, the report points out that it’s not all bad news. A number of countries in Europe were very successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the European Union (EU) in particular, greenhouse gas emissions fell by 31 percent between 1990 and 2020, with a net reduction target of 55 percent for 2030.
Europe is also one of the most advanced regions in transboundary cooperation on climate change adaptation, particularly across transnational river basins.
It is one of the world’s leading providers of effective early warning systems with approx 75 percent of people protected. Heat Health Action Plans have saved many lives from extreme heat.
“Live image of a warming world”
But the challenges are huge, said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas: “Europe is providing a Live image of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from the effects of extreme weather events. As in 2021, large parts of Europe have been hit by widespread heat waves and droughts that have fueled wildfires. In 2021, extraordinary flooding caused death and devastation.”
“On the climate protection side, the good pace of greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the region should continue and Ambition should be increased further. Europe can play a key role in achieving a zero-carbon society by mid-century to meet the Paris Agreement,” said Mr Taalas.
The report, released ahead of the annual UN climate change conference COP27 in Sharm-El Sheikh, includes contributions from national meteorological and hydrological services, climate experts, regional bodies and UN partner organizations.