Large parts of Europe are warming twice as fast as the planet’s average, according to a new publication.
Warming during the summer months in Europe has been much faster than the global average, according to a new study from researchers at Stockholm University. published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres🇧🇷 As a result of human greenhouse gas emissions, the climate across the continent has also become drier, particularly in southern Europe, leading to worsening heat waves and an increased risk of fires.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warming on land is much faster than in the oceans, with 1.6 degrees and 0.9 degrees on average, respectively. That means the global budget for greenhouse gas emissions to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming on land has already been exhausted. Now, the new study shows that the emissions budget to avoid a 2 degree warming in much of Europe during the summer semester (April-September) has also been exhausted. In fact, measurements reveal that warming during the summer months in large parts of Europe over the last four decades has already exceeded two degrees.
According to the researchers, “Climate change is serious because it causes, among other things, more frequent heat waves in Europe. These, in turn, increase the risk of wildfires, like the devastating wildfires in southern Europe in the summer of 2022.”
In southern Europe, the so-called positive feedback caused by global warming is evident, that is, warming is amplified due to drier soil and lower evaporation. Also, there were fewer clouds over large parts of Europe, likely as a result of less water vapor in the air.
Impact of aerosol particles
The study also includes a section on the estimated impact of aerosol particles on increasing temperature. According to Paul Glantz, the rapid warming of, for example, Central and Eastern Europe, is primarily a consequence of long-term human emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. But as emissions of short-lived aerosol particles from, say, coal-fired power plants have dropped dramatically over the past four decades, the combined effect has led to extreme temperature rises of more than two degrees.
The burning of fossil fuels causes the release of aerosol particles and greenhouse gases. Although their origin is common, their effects on climate are different. Aerosol particles in the atmosphere, before the 1980s in Europe, masked warming caused by greenhouse gases. As aerosols in the atmosphere diminished, the temperature rose rapidly. Still, human emissions of carbon dioxide remain the biggest threat, affecting the climate for hundreds or thousands of years.
Greenhouse gases are unaffected by solar radiation, while effectively absorbing infrared radiation, causing it to be re-emitted towards the Earth’s surface. The Earth absorbs solar and infrared radiation, which causes heating of the lower part of the atmosphere in particular.
Unlike greenhouse gases, aerosol particles affect incoming solar radiation, i.e. they scatter some of the sunlight back into space, causing a cooling effect. Human aerosol emissions can enhance this cooling effect.
In the Paris Agreement, all parties must commit to drastically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also important to decrease concentrations of aerosol particles because, in addition to their effects on the climate, aerosol particles in contaminated air cause about eight million premature deaths each year worldwide.
Photograph: European Space Agency