The deadly European heatwave coincided with the hottest June ever recorded, scientists said on Tuesday, and was made five times more likely to occur by climate change. Both reports foreshadowed more of these extreme events in the future.
Soaring temperatures continue to blister the landscape across Europe, causing school and road closures, raging wildfires, shriveled vineyards, and heat-induced antics, such as one Berlin man who rode his scooter in the nude, exclaiming, “It’s just hot, what?”
At least seven deaths have been attributed to the heatwave so far, and health officials say the elderly and ill are especially at risk.
The crisis is so severe that it punctuated the modern global climate record, EU scientists with the Copernicus Climate Change Service announced on Tuesday.
Average temperatures for June were “more than 2 degrees Celsius above normal,” the agency said. That’s compared to data beginning in 1880, which is considered the starting point of record-keeping for global surface temperatures. Scientists added that Europe was 3 degrees Celsius above the June average for the previous century, and more than 1 degree Celsius higher globally.
The heatwave has also shattered dozens of local records in France, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In southern France, the town of Gallargues-le-Montueux hit 45.9 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) on Friday, becoming the epicenter of France’s hottest ever temperature on record.
At least 12 other French towns surpassed the previous record of 44.1 degrees Celsius (111.4 degrees Fahrenheit), set in Conqueyrac during a catastrophic European heatwave in 2003 that killed an estimated 15,000 people.
The sweltering conditions are being caused by a wall of hot air moving in from the Sahara Desert as relief-bringing cool air simultaneously skirts Europe due to high and low pressure systems—a weather pattern known as a “rex block,” Earther explains.
Anthropogenic climate change can be blamed for the heatwave “for all practical purposes,” one of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, James Hansen, told CBS News last week.
Indeed, a separate report on Tuesday from European scientists (based on temperature records stretching back to 1901) claims the event was made at least five to 100 times more likely by climate change. Their analysis also found that scorchers today are 4 degrees Celsius hotter than those of the last hundred years—and are happening 10 times more frequently.
The report noted that “the analysis is not yet peer-reviewed and was written quickly, albeit by scientists experienced in event attribution, working with experts familiar with the conditions in the region studied.”
Hundreds of studies using a similar methodology have concluded that 95 percent of heatwaves were made more likely or worsened by climate change, the Guardian pointed out. The World Meteorological Organization described the event as being “consistent with climate change.”
“Although it is difficult to directly attribute this heat wave to climate change, such extreme weather events are expected to become more common as the planet continues to warm under increasing greenhouse gas concentrations,” said the Copernicus Climate Change Service.