The new year began with record-breaking heat across Europe. In fact, on December 31 and January 1, about 5,000 all-time high temperature records for those dates were broken, in some cases by margins of more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit.
On New Year’s Day, eight European countries recorded their warmest January day ever. These were Liechtenstein, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Netherlands, Belarus, Lithuania, Denmark, and Latvia.
Many of the European cities affected by the heat wave would ordinarily be covered in snow at that time of year. For example, Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, the Czech town of Javornik, and the Polish village of Jodlownik, all recorded peak temperatures between 66 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
By the measure of how far above normal temperatures rose, it was the most extreme heat wave in European history. Last summer saw record-breaking heat waves across much of Europe, but the actual temperature increases over normal were smaller than what just occurred at the beginning of the year.
The source of the exceptional heat was a warm mass of air from the west coast of Africa moving across Europe. As is the case for any individual weather event, one cannot definitively attribute this one to climate change. However, it is abundantly clear that because of climate change, extreme weather events of all types are becoming more frequent and more intense.
The unprecedented European weather does have the effect of helping to ease the energy crisis that has gripped the European continent. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to soaring natural gas prices. The warm weather has meant a lower demand for gas, causing gas prices to drop to their lowest level since the start of the war.
‘Uncharted territory’: January heat records smashed across Europe
Photo, posted August 13, 2019, courtesy of Herbert Frank via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio