The year has only just begun, but Europe has already broken an alarming number of weather records such as extreme heat spread throughout the continent.
On New Year’s Day, at least eight European countries recorded their warmest January day on record: Liechtenstein, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Netherlands, Belarus, Lithuania, Denmark and Latvia, according to climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, who tracks temperatures. extremes all over the world. .
It is “the most extreme heat wave in the history of Europe,” Herrera told CNN, based on how much temperatures rose above normal.
Cities that would often be covered in snow saw instead temperature peak to levels generally seen in summer. “The real ‘monster’ part of this heat wave was from December 31 to January 1,” Herrera told CNN.
On January 1, Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, registered a peak of 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), the Czech city of Javornik reached 19.6 degrees Celsius (67.3 Fahrenheit) and Jodłownik, a town in Poland, registered a peak of 19. degrees Celsius (66.2 Fahrenheit).
Ukraine also recorded its highest temperature in January outside Crimea.
When you consider how much temperatures have risen above normal, the current weather event is even more extreme than the last. Heat waves that burned much of Europe last summer, Herrera said. And the heat is not only unusually intense, but also spreads over a large area – from the borders of Europe with Asia to the north of Spain.
“For the first time, a heat wave in Europe can compete with the most intense ever recorded in North America,” Herrera said.
The driving force behind the exceptional heat was a warm air mass off the west coast of Africa, moving across Europe, bringing unusually warm conditions, according to the UK Met Office.
While forecasters say it’s too early to confidently attribute this extreme heat to climate change, scientists have warned that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense.
“Increases in average global temperatures caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, make it more likely that temperature records will be broken,” said Rebecca Oakes, a Met Office climate scientist.
The record temperatures have alarmed forecasters, but have also had the effect of helping alleviate the energy crisis that has gripped the continent.
Natural gas prices in Europe have soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as President Vladimir Putin restricted supplies to the continent and many countries cut imports from Russia. But this record-breaking wave of warm weather has meant lower gas demand, helping natural gas prices fall to their lowest level since Russia launched its invasion in February last year, according to Refinitiv data.
In Ukraine, unusually hot weather has also helped.
Due to the hot weather, [energy] consumption in Ukraine is reduced”, the state electricity operator of the country Ukrenergo announced on tuesday. Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian government, tweeted on New Year’s Day: “Putin wanted to freeze the Ukrainian allies and defeat Ukraine. Instead, even the weather is on our side.”
But while the warm weather may bring some relief, forecasters warn that this spell offers a glimpse of a troubling future.
Europe has entered “uncharted territory,” Herrera said. “It’s one thing to break even a century-old record by a few decimal places, and quite another to break some 5,000 records in two days, in some cases by more than 5 degrees Celsius.”