Will 2022, an exceptional climate year, become the norm?

Back to the numbers and expert opinion, 2022 is an exceptional year for our climate, especially in Europe, where countries from Ireland to Croatia are experiencing their hottest year on record.

2022 has been a banner year for many Europeans, and experts say it’s a harbinger of things to come.

“The summer of 2022 has become a symbol of the worsening consequences of human-induced climate change” Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a climatologist at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences, says.

“This has created a new climate where there may be several heat waves from June to September” he adds. “A climate where we can have unprecedented drought conditions in the west of France, even in Brittany, and we see very difficult fires, like in the south-west of France before, for example. on the Portuguese side” he specifies. “It wasn’t a surprise to me, but rather the observation, as well as the fact that the knowledge exists to show that these types of events will increase, but that our societies are not prepared for it.” he regrets it.

2022 rhymes with heat in much of Europe

Before looking back at the past year in general, let’s first discuss the latest climate change data provided by the Copernicus Service for December 2022.

In Europe, it averaged 0.9°C above this month’s reading over the period 1991-2020.

But there were great differences between the north and the south of the continent. In the map below, blue areas such as the British Isles and Scandinavia have been affected by colder than average weather. Iceland’s Reykjavík recorded its lowest temperature since 1918.

Along the Mediterranean Sea, the weather has been much milder than last month.

And for many Europeans, this sweetness in December concluded a year marked by exceptional heat.

All the countries shown in red on the map below experienced 2022, the hottest year ever, from the British Isles to the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkans.

“These types of events will become more frequent and more intense”

Last year was an exception, but it will not remain so. According to climatologist Valérie Masson-Delmott, the unusually high summer temperatures will be considered average in a few decades.

“Average conditions in summer 2022 will be standard conditions experienced in 2050-2060” he says. “What you have to understand is that a year like 2022 is exceptional, but these types of events will become more frequent, more intense, and I’ll let you imagine what the records will look like in the 2050s and 2060s compared to the average climate. looks like 2022 in the summer” he warns.

Last summer’s heatwaves wreaked havoc on the natural environment, but their impact on human health is less well known.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 additional deaths were recorded due to the anomalously high temperatures in Europe last summer, not only in Spain and France, but also in the UK, where a new heat record was set last summer. In July it was above 40°C in some parts of Britain.

This led to the launch of the country’s meteorological services an unprecedented overheat red signal. Conditions that can cause illness and death, including in healthy people, they warned.

Experts believe that we need to change our attitude to heat. This is the work of climatologist Vicki Thompson of the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute. “Especially in the northernmost parts of Europe, Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, and especially in the north of Germany” he explains “We still see the heat as a good thing because you can go out and have fun. You have to understand that you can enjoy the heat, but it has longer-term effects.” he notes.

Gender inequality in heat

Most of the deaths are elderly or very young. But data from Europe and North America shows that women are 15% more exposed to heat than men, and scientists don’t yet know exactly why.

“Two Basic Theories” Vicki Thompson says, “The fact that women have a higher body temperature and therefore need to cool down more, but also that women sweat less than men, prevents them from cooling down.”

Ice shooting

From summer heat to the cryosphere… Our planet’s icy regions are at the forefront of climate change, and in 2022 the Arctic and Antarctic experienced below-average annual sea ice extent.

For the second year in a row, there was no snow at the top of Greenland, but rain.

Switzerland’s glaciers have lost 6% of their total remaining volume, as evidenced by glaciologist Matthias Huss of ETH Zurich. “The year 2022 has been really special for the alpine region because there is both very little snow in winter and very high temperatures in summer with persistent heat waves”. Matthias Huss says. “This merger is the worst thing that could happen to the glaciers, and it has resulted in record ice losses that have never been seen before.” notes.

Chronic absence of snow and rain

Matthias Huss also noted severe winter drought in the southern part of the Alps in 2021-2022. “There was almost no precipitation between December and March, so the low snowfall meant that the glaciers had a very thin layer of snow at the end of winter, which is certainly a very bad start to the melt season. ,” explains.

Valerie Masson-Delmotte also warns of cold and lack of snow in the middle mountains. “For every degree of global warming, it is calculated that in the mid-mountains, at about 1500 m altitude, we lose the equivalent of a month’s worth of snow cover. he says. “Not every year, of course there is variation from year to year” moderated before adding: “But it has very significant implications for those whose economic activity depends on it, particularly the ski industry.”

Finally, remember that all of this is clearly happening because the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere as a result of human activity continues to increase.

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