Last year was Europe’s hottest on record, even without El Nino: scientists

(Reuters) - Last year was the hottest on record in Europe, extending a run of exceptionally warm years driven by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, according to a new study released on Earth Day on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: People enjoy the beach on a hot and sunny summer day in Nice, France, August 14, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard -/File Photo

Europe’s average annual temperature hit a record high last year, exceeding the previous hottest years on record, which were 2014, 2015 and 2018, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said in its annual “European State of the Climate” report.

Of Europe’s 12 warmest years on record, 11 have occurred since 2000, the report found.

“This warming trend is now unequivocal anywhere on the planet. And as a consequence of that, the frequency of these record breaking events is going up,” C3S director Carlo Buontempo told Reuters.

This year looks likely continue the warming trend. Copernicus data from Dec. 2019-Feb. 2020 showed that Europe experienced its warmest winter on record.

The scientists said last year’s record temperatures came even though there was no El Nino – a weather pattern that typically leads to higher temperatures.

“This made the record-breaking events even more extraordinary,” Buontempo said.

Rather, high pressure weather events helped trigger the scorching heatwaves seen last June and July, when countries including France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands recorded their highest ever temperatures.

The scientists said these high pressure events are likely to become more severe, as the world warms.

Concentrations of planet warming gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and methane, climbed in 2019 and are now at levels not seen on the Earth for millions of years, the scientists said.

The 27-country EU plans to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, a pathway that will require transformational change in many sectors of the economy.

The Paris accord aims to cap global warming at “well below” 2 degree Celius and as close as possible to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Global average temperatures have already increased roughly 1.1C since pre-industrial times, the scientists said.

Reporting by Kate Abnett, Editing by Angus MacSwan