The summer of 2021 was the warmest in Europe on record. According to scientists, last summer was the hottest, with temperatures reaching a full 1 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average temperature for the previous three decades. The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service recently released a report revealing that spring 2021 was chilly and cooler than usual, while summer 2021 was marked by a brutal and enduring heatwave.
Sea surface temperature in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and parts of the Baltic Sea rose higher than temperatures ever witnessed since 1992. Mercury rose higher than 5 degrees Celsius above average during the summer months. The Copernicus Climate Change Service has reported the last seven years to be the hottest years ever recorded globally.
The annual wind speeds around parts of central and western Europe were the lowest since 1979, as reported by the Copernicus Climate Change Service. Due to this, there was a reduction in the future rate for wind power. Wind power is one of the primary sustainable and renewable sources of energy used by European countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service bases its reports on ground-based weather stations and satellite observations. According to their accounts, globally, the year 2021 was ranked somewhere between the 7th and 5th hottest year on record.
The prolonged heat waves and temperature rise caused several wildfires, such as those seen in Turkey, Greece, and Siberia in 2021. The European wildfire was the second most destructive wildfire event on record since 2000. According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), over 1 million hectares (ha) were burned in Europe; the damages in 2021 surpassed the damages in the year 2017. A report by the EFFIS found that extreme and massive fires have affected numerous countries, particularly in the Mediterranean Basin. The report warns about the current devastating conditions contributing to more wildfire seasons.
2021 witnessed fires in about 39 countries that burned over 1,113,464 ha– mapped by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). In 2021, wildfires affected areas in Turkey the most, burning up to 206,013 ha in Turkey alone. The fires also affected Italy and Algeria; around 159,537 ha and 134,273 ha were destroyed, respectively. The EFFIS mapped 1422 wildfires, four times the average of the last 13 years. The wildfires destroyed about 25 percent of agricultural land and 28 percent of forest land. Other natural land types were also burned and damaged.
The EFFIS mapped the wildfires in around 22 of the 27 European Union Member States in the year 2021, excluding the regions of Malta, Estonia, Netherlands, Czechia, and Luxembourg. The total amount of burnt areas in Europe came up to 500,566 ha. The month of August witnessed the most damage to land, especially in Greece. Out of the total regions burnt, about half a million hectares (20 percent of the total) were burnt on ‘Natura 2000’ sites. Natura 2000 sites include Special Protected Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas for Conservation (SACs)- they are areas of conservational value for endangered and threatened species.
Contribution To Flooding Events
According to the German Weather Service, the state of Germany’s weather in 2021 was in line with the trend of global warming. Since the 1970s, each decade has been hotter than the previous decade. The head of the climate monitoring department, Andreas Becker, mentioned that the year 2021 would not be remembered by the public for its heat waves and high temperatures but rather for its extreme and brutal floods in western Germany.
According to experts, the heatwave and wildfires of 2021 contributed to heavy rains in Belgium and Germany, which led to extreme flooding events. Climate researchers paid close attention to the flood disaster that took place in Germany in July. The flooding event claimed the lives of around 180 citizens in the western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. The catastrophic flooding in these regions showed how vulnerable the country is to extreme climatic events. As heavy rainfall descended in the area before the month of July, the soil could not absorb the excess rainwater.
The rise in temperatures in Europe led to the creation of cyclone Bernd, which, in turn, caused the flood disaster. The extreme rainfall continued and went on for three days, leading to tragic flooding in several areas, with subsequent damages and casualties. Small streams and rivers transformed into severe currents that flooded entire villages. The heavy rainfall and violent currents threatened dams. Mobile phone and electricity networks were all shut down due to the catastrophic events.
Thus, the warmest summer in Europe contributed to the most brutal effects. The country needs to be prepared for future events such as these, warned Andreas Becker. According to a team of global climate experts working under the German Weather Service, such deadly events in the region have become 1.9 to nine times more likely due to human-induced climate change. An aspiring climate protection plan needs to be in the national and global interest.
Resilience to Extreme Heat
Experts believe that the harmful effects of climate change can be avoided by reducing emissions and limiting the earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are several methods to recover from extreme heat waves:
Recognizing threatened regions and populations and creating heat preparedness plans like starting a cooling center during heat waves and adopting heat stress standards.
People can install green and cool roofs (vegetative layers on rooftops) to decrease the effects of extreme heat. Green roofs soak up heat from the environment and act as insulators. They can provide great comfort inside your home. Reflective roofs can also prove helpful by reflecting heat and sunlight away, decreasing room temperatures.
Planting trees and vegetation around your home or town reduces air and surface temperatures by keeping the surroundings cool and shady through evapotranspiration. This method reduces dependence on air conditioners and lowers your energy bill.
Reducing dependence on electricity grids by using efficient energy, particularly during heat waves. Energy-efficient equipment and appliances aid in lightening the load on electric grids, ensuring electricity supply to your house.