Climate change has profound implications for humans and the environment, but to implement powerful policies to tackle it, reliable data are vital. One way in which the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) makes sense of these data is through the European State of the Climate (ESOTC) — an annual report that describes the climate conditions and events of the previous years.
C3S – implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission – has just launched its third ESOTC. Providing an overview of climate trends and weather events in 2019, the report covers Europe and the European sector of the Arctic, exploring key climate variables such as glacier ice loss, lake surface temperatures, wildfire activity and vegetation cover. On top of focusing in on some stand-out climatic conditions and events – last summer’s record-breaking heatwaves, for example – it also gives updates on important climate indicators and their long-term trends.
The findings are based on data and expertise from across the C3S community as well as other Copernicus services and external partners, including the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which is also implemented by ECMWF. By providing a wealth of accurate, relevant and accessible data, the ESOTC enables policymakers – as well as researchers and businesses – to devise evidence-based road maps towards a more sustainable future under the European Green Deal. It also highlights the importance of C3S data in monitoring the progress of the EU in achieving the aims set out in the Paris Agreement.
EUROPEAN WET AND DRY CONDITIONS
Precipitation in Europe shows no clear trend and was close to average in 2019. However, late autumn saw extreme precipitation in parts of western and southern Europe, leading to flooding in some regions. Soil moisture has shown a downward trend since 1979, and 2019 was the second lowest for this period. Almost all of continental Europe saw drier than- average soil, especially in central Europe and around the Baltic Sea during summer and in the southeast during autumn. Coinciding with above-average precipitation during autumn in parts of western, northern and southern Europe, soil moisture levels came close to, or even above, average in this season.
2019 was Europe’s warmest on record, closely followed by 2014, 2015 and 2018. Almost all of Europe saw higher-than average temperatures, in particular central and eastern regions. All seasons were warmer than normal, with summer 2019 being the fourth warmest since 1979 and some places experiencing daily average temperatures up to 9°C above normal. Three particularly warm periods occurred in February, June and July, with summer heatwaves bringing record-breaking temperatures for some countries. The latest five-year average (2015–2019) shows a global temperature increase of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, and 2°C in Europe since approximately the same period.
European surface air temperature anomaly for annual averages from 1979 to 2019, relative to the annual average for the 1981-2010 reference period. Data source: ERA5. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)/ ECMWF/KNMI.
SEA LEVEL RISE, GLACIERS AND ICE SHEETS
Rising sea levels are mainly due to melting land ice and glaciers, but thermal expansion of ocean waters is responsible for over a third of the increase. Globally, glaciers currently lose around 335 gigatonnes of ice per year, leading to a sea level rise of about 1 mm/year. While the global average rise has been around 3 mm/year since 1993, for most of Europe the rise has been 2–4 mm/year. In summer 2019, the Greenland ice sheet experienced unprecedented melting, with close to 96 percent of the surface experiencing melting at least once. This led to a record-low surface mass balance, at 320 gigatonnes below average.
* 1 gigatonne = 1,000,000,000 tonnes
Global concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrogen dioxide have increased steadily over recent decades, and geological records show that concentrations of CO2 observed in 2019 have not existed on Earth for millions of years. Between 2003 and 2019, the concentration of CO2 has been increasing by about 0.6 percent per year, and methane by about 0.4 percent per year. The estimated net surface fluxes of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have also increased during recent decades, with net emissions of CO2 now standing at five gigatonnes per year.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) combines observations of the climate system with the latest science to develop authoritative, quality-assured information about the past, current and future states of the climate in Europe and worldwide. By adding value to environmental measurements, C3S supports policymakers, businesses, researchers and citizens to assess the past climate and make informed decisions for the future.
Providing data openly and freely via an online Climate Data Store, C3S works with key climate-sensitive sectors to develop applications that demonstrate how climate data can be accessed, transformed and used to address specific issues. For policymakers, C3S provides tools and reports to help shape future policies, as well as reliable data to assess how well existing policies are working.
The Service is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission and has been operational since 2018.