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Title: Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes
Date: 04-Aug-2018
Category: Climate Change
Source/Author: The New York Times
Description: Cows are dying of thirst in Switzerland, fires are gobbling up timber in Sweden, the majestic Dachstein glacier is melting in Austria.

By Alissa J. Rubin

By analyzing data from seven weather stations in northern Europe, the researchers found that the closer a community is to the Arctic Circle, the more this summer’s heat stood out in the temperature record. A number of cities and towns in Norway, Sweden and Finland hit all-time highs this summer, with towns as far north as the Arctic Circle recording nearly 90-degree temperatures.

A crowded beach in Nazaré, Portugal, on Thursday. The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere warned that the maximum temperatures will be well above normal.CreditPaulo Cunha/EPA, via Shutterstock

Not only is much of northern and western Europe hotter than normal, but the weather is also more erratic. Torrential rains and violent thunderstorms have alternated with droughts in parts of France. In the Netherlands, a drought — rather than the rising seas — is hurting its system of dikes because there is not enough fresh water countering the seawater.

The preliminary results of the Oxford study found that, in some places, climate change more than doubled the likelihood of this summer’s European heat wave.

“In the past, we had this kind of heat wave once every 10 years, and now we have them every two years or something like that,” said François-Marie Bréon, a climatologist and deputy director of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science, a research institute affiliated with France’s National Center for Scientific Research. “That’s really the sign of climate change: We have heat waves that aren’t necessarily more intense but that are more and more frequent.”

Temperatures that used to be seen as outliers — like those in the summer of 2003 when at least 70,000 people died across Europe — will become “the norm for summer” after 2060, said Jean Jouzel, who was vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 when it won the Nobel Prize.

Occasional heat waves could push temperatures in Europe toward 120 degrees unless there is a dramatic slowdown in global warming trends, he said.

“In Europe, each year about 5 percent of Europeans have to face an extreme climate event — be that a heat wave, a flood, a drought. But in the second half of this century, if the global warming is not checked, we could see two Europeans out of every three who have to face extreme climate events,” said Mr. Jouzel, citing a recent study in The Lancet Planetary Health.

It used to be winter storms that closed down airports and delayed flights. But this summer in the northern German city of Hannover, the 50-year-old runways buckled in the 93-degree heat and travelers were delayed for hours.

Across northern Germany, trees, especially saplings, have been hard hit by the drought and cities have been calling on citizens to help local trees. They have responded by dragging garden hoses from their houses or sloshing pails of water to nearby trees.

Throughout the Alps but especially in eastern Switzerland and western Austria, as well as in Ireland, the water shortages have been so severe that there is not enough hay in the pastures to feed local milk cows. So farmers are having to dip into their winter feed stocks, diminishing what they will have for their livestock later in the year.

In Switzerland, where the herds are led to the high pastures in summer to graze, the drought has stranded cows without water. Farmers have turned to the country’s helicopter association and the Swiss Air Force to transport tens of thousands of gallons of water every week to keep the herds alive.

The cloudberry harvest was down as well because it was too hot for the beautiful alpine fruit.

“We had an early season and the cloudberries ripened really fast,” said Mr. Bjorkmann, adding that the berry season had outstripped the arrival of the pickers, who came too late.


An earlier version of this article misidentified the affiliation of Reto Rüesch. He is the managing director of Heli-Linth, a member of the Swiss Helicopter Association, not of the helicopter association itself.

Reporting was contributed by Aurelien Breeden and Emma Bubola in Paris; Melissa Eddy and Christopher Schuetze in Berlin; Elisabetta Povoledo in Rome; Milan Schreuer in Brussels; Rafael Minder in Madrid; Christina Anderson in Stockholm; Ceylan Yeginsu and Palko Karasz in London; Ed O’Loughlin in Dublin; and Niki Kitsantonis in Athens.

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