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Europe saw record number of extreme heat stress days in 2023: Report

According to a new report, Europe is the fastest warming continent, with temperatures rising at around twice the global average rate

FILE PHOTO: Cracked and dry earth is seen in the wide riverbed of the Loire River near the Anjou-Bretagne bridge as a heatwave hits Europe, in Ancenis-Saint-Gereon, France, June 13, 2022.(Reuters)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 22.04.2024  |  03:30 PM IST

Last year Europe experienced its joint warmest or second warmest year on record, depending on the dataset, while the average sea surface temperature across Europe was the warmest on record, a new report revealed on 22 April.

The 2023 edition of the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s (C3S) European State of the Climate (ESOTC) report, produced jointly with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for the first time, has revealed that linked to the high temperatures, 2023 saw a record number of days with ‘extreme heat stress’ in Europe. The annual ESOTC report analyses climate data from the previous year, placing it into the context of long-term trends.

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There is an increasing trend in the number of days with at least ‘strong heat stress’ across Europe, the findings of the report said. “At the peak of a heatwave in July, 41% of southern Europe was affected by at least ‘strong heat stress’, with potential for health impacts. Overall, the number of adverse health impacts related to extreme weather and climate events is rising - heat-related mortality has increased by around 30% in the past 20 years and heat-related deaths are estimated to have increased in 94% of the European regions monitored," the report explains.

In July 2023, for the first time in history, the climate crisis and related extreme weather events were also declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), which warns that extended periods of high day and nighttime temperatures create cumulative physiological stress on the human body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes.

In addition to the challenges that heatwaves present to health, there were other extreme weather events that severely impacted people in Europe in 2023, the report explained. “According to preliminary estimates for the year from the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), last year in Europe 63 lives were lost due to storms, 44 to floods and 44 to wildfires. Furthermore, economic losses related to weather and climate in 2023 are estimated to be at least €13.4 billion," the report says, adding that Europe is the fastest warming continent, with temperatures rising at around twice the global average rate.

“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our generation. The cost of climate action may seem high, but the cost of inaction is much higher. As this report shows, we need to leverage science to provide solutions for the good of society," WMO secretary-general Celeste Saulo said in the report.

Also read: Climate impacts set to cut 2050 global GDP by nearly a fifth: Study