Hottest summer, floods, fires: 2021 was a “year of extremes”
In terms of weather, 2021 was "a year of extremes" for Europe, climate researchers working for the European Union concluded in their annual report. The summer was the hottest on record, floods ravaged western European countries, and the Mediterranean suffered from droughts and forest fires.
The contrasts in 2021 were particularly striking, wrote Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) in the European State of the Climate report. Over the whole year, the average temperature was only 0.2 degrees higher than average for the past three decades. This was mainly because the spring was cooler than usual, and the frost lasted for a long time. In the summer, many temperature records were broken.
Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands were hit by severe flooding after extreme rainfall. An unofficial heat record of 48.8 degrees was set in Italy. Parts of that country, Greece, and Turkey suffered devastating wildfires. The researchers calculated that 800,000 hectares of nature reserves in the Mediterranean went up in flames. That equates to twice the surface area of the province of Noord-Holland.
The European head of Earth observation Mauro Facchini called this type of data essential to achieve the European climate goals. Following the UN panel of climate scientists IPCC, he stressed that "time is running out" to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial times. "This report highlights the need to take action, as extreme climate-related events are already occurring in Europe," said Facchini.
Low wind speed in parts of Western and Central Europe was a setback in renewable energy generation in the past year. This problem occurred in Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Denmark. As a result, wind turbines rotated less quickly and generated less green energy than usual. In some places, the wind hasn't blown this little since 1979, according to Copernicus.
Reporting by ANP.