Europe is warming faster than the global average and the climate across the continent also became drier, particularly in southern Europe, leading to worse heat waves and an increased risk of fires, according to a new study.
The new study by researchers at Stockholm University published in the Journal of geophysical Research Atmospheres, attributes all these changes to human emissions of greenhouse gases.
The researchers noted that a clear positive feedback caused by global warming is evident in southern Europe. Here one can see warming is amplified due to drier soil and decreased evaporation, they said. Moreover, there has been less cloud coverage over large parts of Europe, probably as a result of less water vapour in the air.
“Climate change is serious as it leads to, among other things, more frequent heat waves in Europe. These, in turn, increase the risk of fires, such as the devastating fires in southern Europe in the summer of 2022,” said Paul Glantz, Associate Professor at the Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University, and main author of the study.
“What we see in southern Europe is in line what IPCC has predicted, which is that an increased human impact on the greenhouse effect would lead to dry areas on Earth becoming even drier,” said Paul Glantz.
WARMING OVER LAND AREA
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has said that warming over land areas occurs significantly faster than over oceans, with 1.6 degrees and 0.9 degrees on average, respectively. It means that the global greenhouse gas emissions budget to stay under a 1.5-degree warming on land has already been used up.
The new study shows that the emissions budget to avoid a 2-degree warming over large parts of Europe during the summer half-year (April-September) has also been used up.
Paul Glantz opined that the rapid warming in, for example, Central and Eastern Europe, is first and foremost a consequence of the human emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. But since emissions of short-lived aerosol particles from, for example, coal-fired power plants have decreased greatly over the past four decades, the combined effect has led to an extreme temperature increase of over two degrees, the author added.
“The airborne aerosol particles, before they began to decrease in the early 1980s in Europe, have masked the warming caused by human greenhouse gases by just over one degree on average for the summer half-year. As the aerosols in the atmosphere decreased, the temperature increased rapidly. Human emissions of carbon dioxide are still the biggest threat as they affect the climate for hundreds to thousands of years,” says Paul Glantz.
According to Paul Glantz, this effect provides a harbinger of future warming in areas where aerosol emissions are high, such as in India and China.