This European summer could end up witnessing the continent’s third significant heatwave of the century, following on from 2003 and 2006.
On Monday, the heatwave continues in much of Europe, with high temperature warnings issued in Poland, Hungary, Switzerland and the province of Cordoba in Spain. There will be a resurgence of heat into northwest Europe later this week.
Last Monday, June 29, Madrid’s international Airport reported 40C, a first for June in records dating back to 1945. Cordoba, in southern Spain, reached a sizzling 43.7C on the preceding day.
Last Wednesday, the temperature at London’s Heathrow Airport nudged 36.7C – a July heat record for anywhere in the UK.
Meteo-France says three French locations chalked up all-time highs last Wednesday, records that have already been reset in at least one of the previous 21st century heatwaves.
In Boulogne-sur-Mer, 35.4C beat the previous record of August 11, 2003 (34.8C); in Dieppe, 38.3C beat the previous record of July 19, 2006 (37C); and in Melun, 39.4C beat the previous record of August 12, 2003 (38.9C).
21st century heatwaves
The 2003 European heatwave led to the hottest summer on record in Europe since at least 1540.
This heatwave was the first extreme weather event to be attributed to the human influence on the climate, with research suggesting it was made more than twice as likely because of climate change.
The 2006 European heatwave arrived at the end of June, mostly in central and northern countries. July 2006 was the warmest in Poland since the beginning of meteorological measurements in 1779. The UK Met Office declared that the extended summer of 2006 was the hottest summer ever recorded in Britain.
Recent research from the UK Met Office has suggested that over the past 10 to 15 years, the likelihood of a “very hot” summer has risen, from once every 50 years to once every five years.
Heatwaves such as that of 2003 will become “very common” by the 2040s under all emissions pathways used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
As an example, in De Bilt, the Netherlands, a heat wave like the current one would have been a roughly one-in-30-years event in the 1900s and is now likely to happen every three and a half years.