“Extreme weather phenomena”: 2022 was the warmest year ever for a quarter of humanity

Dhe year 2022 was the warmest year on record for a quarter of humanity. New highs have been measured in China and the Middle East, among other places, the European earth observation program Copernicus announced in its annual report on climate change on Tuesday. Accordingly, the past eight years have been the warmest in the world.

It was also the warmest year ever measured in many countries in western Europe: In France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain and other countries, the average temperature measured was higher than at any time since records began, emphasized the climate researcher Freya Vamborg in an online Press conference.

According to Copernicus, 2022 was the fifth warmest year worldwide since records began, but only with a very small gap to the four even warmer years. Due to the La Niña weather phenomenon, it was relatively cool in eastern Australia last year. The average global temperature in 2022 was 0.3 degrees higher than in 1991-2020. This corresponds to an increase of 1.2 degrees compared to 1850-1900.

“2022 was a year of extreme weather phenomena,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy chief of the Copernicus Climate Change Monitoring Service. “These events make it clear that we are already feeling the devastating consequences of our warming world.” To prevent the worst effects of climate change, society urgently needs to reduce carbon emissions and better adapt to climate change,” stressed Burgess. The international community of states wants to stop global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees in order to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

According to the report, heat waves combined with hardly any rain and dry soils caused periods of drought in many places in Europe, which led to problems in agriculture, shipping and the energy industry. The extreme drought also increased the risk of wildfires – summers are estimated to have had the highest emissions from wildfires in the EU and UK in the past 15 years.

From its measurements and estimates, the EU service also deduces that temperatures in Europe have risen more than twice as much as the global average over the past 30 years and that Europe is warming the most of all continents. This is due, among other things, to Europe’s location near the higher northern latitudes, but also to effects that ensure extremely hot summers in the Mediterranean region.

In 2022, Europe experienced its hottest summer on record. Overall, the year is in second place behind 2020. Western and northern Europe in particular suffered from intense heat waves. There were also extended periods of drought and numerous forest fires. Germany and France, among others, have experienced the worst forest fires in the past 20 years.

More about drought and heat waves

Forest fire on the Brocken last week in the Harz National Park

Heat, drought, lack of water

Many cities will have to adjust to greater stress from heat in the future

Garden hose on dry grass

New shoot of plant in dry cracked clay mud in dried up lake bed / riverbed caused by prolonged drought in summer in hot weather temperatures.  (Photo by: Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

drought and lack of water

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There were also severe heat waves in Pakistan and northern India in the spring and in central and eastern China in the summer. Massive flooding followed in Pakistan. Copernicus Director Carlo Buontempo expects further records to be set in the coming years: “We cannot be sure whether next summer will be the hottest. But if I had to bet, I would definitely bet on a hot one. Cooler years will now be the exception,” said Buontempo, referring to global warming.

In February 2022, the Antarctic ice sheet was the smallest it had been since satellite observations began. Extreme weather phenomena also include flooding in Nigeria and drought in the Horn of Africa.

As in previous years, the concentration of the greenhouse gas CO₂ in the atmosphere continued to rise by around 2.1 parts per million (ppm). “There is no evidence of a slowdown,” said Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the responsible Copernicus service. However, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere did not decrease last year either – on the contrary. Both the concentration of carbon dioxide and the extremely potent greenhouse gas methane increased: on an annual average to 417 ppm (parts per million – particles CO₂ per million particles) for carbon dioxide and 1894 ppb (parts per billion – particles methane per billion particles) for methane.

According to Copernicus, these are the highest values ​​for both gases since records began. If you include other measurements, these are even the highest values ​​for hundreds of thousands of years. “Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, are the main drivers of climate change, and our measurements show that atmospheric concentrations continue to rise with no signs of slowing down,” Peuch said.

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The Paris climate agreement of 2015 set the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees if possible, but at least well below two degrees compared to the pre-industrial age. Scientists have proven that every tenth of a degree of warming results in extreme weather phenomena.

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The Copernicus records go back to 1979. The climate change service also uses data from ground stations, balloons, airplanes and satellites going back to 1950. Data on temperatures, sea ice cover and other aspects are published monthly using computer analysis.

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