Climate Change

Fifth-warmest year: 2021 was marked by floods, heatwaves, other climate anomalies for Europe

Europe experienced its warmest summer ever last year

By Pulaha Roy
Published: Tuesday 08 February 2022

The year 2021 was the fifth-warmest on record, according to the annual report of Copernicus, European Union’s Earth-observation programme. 

In 2021, the annual average temperature was 0.3 degree celsius (°C) higher than the 1991-2020 average and 1.1-1.2°C over the average for the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900.

The last seven years were also the seven warmest on record, according to data from the programme’s ERA5, which has been recording climate trends since 1950. The highest average annual temperature was recorded in 2016. 

The global warming phenomenon in 2021 also triggered extreme weather events across the world. Copernicus Climate Change Service director, Carlo Buontempo said:

2021 was yet another year of extreme temperatures with the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, not to mention the unprecedented high temperatures in North America. 

These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work towards reducing net carbon emissions, he added. 

Europe experienced its warmest summer ever last year. Both the months of June and July recorded the second-highest average temperatures for the respective months. 

August was close to the 1991-2020 average but saw wide-ranging temperature anomalies. Both southern and northern Europe recorded above-average temperatures, according to researchers from Copernicus. 

The maximum temperature in Italy’s Sicily exceeded the previous record of 48°C, the data showed. The unprecedented warming was caused by massive heat waves across the Mediterranean region in July. 

The same month, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg were swept by climate change-induced floods.

In June, above-average surface temperature relative to 1991-2020 persisted across Europe. The Baltic Sea region recorded a temperature anomaly of over 8°C. Moscow recorded its warmest June ever due to massive heat waves. 

Researchers from the earth observation programme assessed that the ‘warm conditions over Europe were part of an arc of unusually high temperatures that extended from northwest Africa, through Europe and south eastwards to Iran, Afghanistan and western Pakistan’. 

Overall average temperature for Europe was 1.5°C above the 1991-2020 average. 

In July, while parts of Europe were cooler than the 1991-2020 average, they were ravaged by floods. Heatwaves continued uninterrupted across eastern and southeastern Europe. 

The Baltic Sea experienced above average temperature anomalies over 6°C in July as well. 

Overall average temperature for Europe in July was 1.5° celsius above the 1991-2020 average. 

The only July which was warmer than 2021 was in 2010, when Europe’s average for the month was 1.7°C over the 1991-2020 period. 

The report also observed that the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane, the two biggest greenhouse gasses which contribute to the global warming phenomenon, continued to steadily rise in 2021. Satellite data for carbon dioxide showed April with the highest concentration of carbon dioxide. 

In 2021, methane concentrations reached an unprecedented level of 1,876 parts per billion units.

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