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2022 was a year of climate extremes

with record high temperatures and rising concentrations of greenhouse gases


New data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reveals another year of climate extremes with many high temperature records and rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Summer 2022 was the hottest on record for Europe and each boreal summer month was at least the third warmest globally. Overall, 2022 was the second warmest year on record for Europe, while globally it was the 5th warmest year according to the ERA5 dataset. Globally:

  • 2022 was the 5th warmest year – however, the 4th-8th warmest years are very close together

  • The last eight years have been the eight warmest on record

  • The annual average temperature was 0.3°C above the reference period of 1991-2020, which equates to approximately 1.2°C higher than the period 1850-1900

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increased by approximately 2.1 ppm, similar to the rates of recent years. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere increased by close to 12 ppb, higher than average, but below the last two years’ record highs

  • La Niña conditions persisted during much of the year, for the third year in a row

Europe:

  • Europe saw its second warmest year on record, exceeded by 2020 and only slightly warmer than 2019, 2015 and 2014

  • Europe experienced its hottest summer ever recorded

  • Autumn was the third warmest on record

  • Prolonged and intense heatwaves affected western and northern Europe

  • Persistent low levels of rainfall, in combination with high temperatures and other factors led to widespread drought conditions

  • Highest summer (June-August) total wildfire emissions estimated for the EU plus UK in the last 15 years. France, Spain, Germany, and Slovenia experienced their highest summer wildfire emissions for at least the last 20 years

Other regions

  • Prolonged heatwave conditions affected Pakistan and northern India in spring, and central and eastern China during summer

  • Pakistan saw widespread flooding in August as a result of extreme rainfall

  • Relatively low temperatures and high rainfall over eastern Australia in 2022 are climatic features typically associated with La Niña conditions

  • In February, Antarctic Sea ice reached its lowest minimum extent in the 44-year satellite record

  • Six months saw the Antarctic Sea ice extent reach record or near-record low values.


This topic will be discussed at the Polish Climate Summit and CNE Climate Summit in Poland on March 16-17th.


The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission, releases its 2022 Global Climate Highlights: a summary of the past year’s temperatures, greenhouse gas concentrations and significant climate and weather events. The summary shows that several high temperature records were broken both in Europe and across the world, while other extreme events such as drought and flooding affected large regions. Europe saw its hottest summer ever recorded and several prolonged and intense heatwaves affected parts of western and northern Europe. C3S again underlines that ERA5 concurs with other widely used temperature datasets that European temperatures have increased by more than twice the global average over the past 30 years and has the highest rate of increase of any continent in the world. Mauro Facchini, Head of Earth Observation at the Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space, European Commission, comments: “In our efforts to tackle climate change at global, European or national level it is clear that high quality Earth observation data, information and knowledge are essential. The Copernicus Climate Change Service provides authoritative and timely monitoring of the changing climate which informs adaptation efforts.”

Global temperatures: how close are we to breaching the temperature limits set by the Paris Agreement?

During 2022, the world experienced its fifth warmest year on record, according to the C3S ERA5 dataset, but only by a very small margin. Other widely used temperature datasets are likely to rank 2022 slightly differently. So far, the hottest years on record globally are 2016, 2020 and 2019 and 2017 respectively. According to ERA5, the annual average temperature was 0.3°C above the reference period of 1991-2020, which equates to approximately 1.2°C higher than the period 1850-1900, typically used as a proxy for the pre-industrial era. This makes 2022 the eighth year in a row of temperatures more than 1°C above the pre-industrial level. Further, each boreal summer month during 2022 was at least the third warmest globally. Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, adds: "2022 was yet another year of climate extremes across Europe and globally. These events highlight that we are already experiencing the devastating consequences of our warming world. The latest 2022 Climate Highlights from C3S provides clear evidence that avoiding the worst consequences will require society to both urgently reduce carbon emissions and swiftly adapt to the changing climate.”


For 2022, temperatures were more than 2°C above the average of the 1991–2020 reference period over parts of northern central Siberia and along the Antarctic Peninsula. A number of regions saw the warmest year on record, according to the ERA5 dataset. Over land, this includes large parts of western Europe, parts of the following regions: Middle East, Central Asia and China, New Zealand, north-western Africa and the Horn of Africa.*


Temperatures in Europe across the year were the second warmest on record. 2022 was cooler than 2020 by 0.3°C, and marginally warmer – by around 0.1°C, than 2019, 2015 and 2014. All of Europe, except for Iceland, saw annual temperatures above the 1991-2020 average. Temperatures were most above average in the western part of the continent. According to the C3S ERA5 dataset, several countries in western and southern Europe saw the highest annual temperatures since at least 1950. Similar findings have already been reported based on either preliminary or final data by national agencies in this region. Summer in Europe was the warmest on record by a clear margin, with the previous warmest summer in 2021. Autumn was the third warmest on record, only beaten by 2020 and 2006. Winter temperatures in 2022 were around 1°C above average, ranking amongst the ten warmest winters. Conversely, spring temperatures for Europe as a whole were just below the average of the 1991-2020 reference period. In terms of monthly averages, nine months were above average, while three – March, April and September - were below average. The continent experienced its second warmest June ever recorded at about 1.6°C above average and its warmest October recorded with temperatures nearly 2°C above average.

Extreme events experienced across the world in 2022

Both polar regions saw episodes of record temperatures during 2022. March saw the Antarctic experience an intense warm period with temperatures well above average. At Vostok station, in the interior of East Antarctica, for example, the reported temperature reached -17.7°C, the warmest ever measured in its 65-year record. During September, temperatures over the center of Greenland were 8°C higher than average with C3S data showing that almost all the country experienced average temperatures higher than any in September since at least 1979, associated with southerly prevailing winds that were warmer than normal.

The Antarctic saw unusually low sea ice conditions throughout the year, with six months seeing record or near-record low Antarctic Sea ice extents for the corresponding month. During the latter half of February, Antarctic daily sea ice extent reached a new record low, bypassing the previous minimum reached in 2017. The low sea ice extents came primarily from below-average sea ice conditions in the Weddell Sea throughout most of the year, in the Ross and Amundsen Seas until April, and in the Bellingshausen Sea from April onward.

In the tropical and subtropical regions, extremely high pre-monsoon temperatures in Pakistan and northern India resulted in prolonged spring heatwave conditions and record-breaking maximum and minimum temperatures. Central and eastern China experienced long-lived heatwave conditions with subsequent drought during the summer.

In July and August, Pakistan saw record-breaking rainfall leading to large-scale flooding over large parts of the country causing widespread destruction and loss of life. Australia also experienced below average temperatures, with unusually wet conditions throughout much of the year, especially in the east of the continent, with several episodes of widespread flooding, a situation typically associated with persisting La Niña conditions and likely accentuated by saturated soils.

The unusual warmth in late spring and summer in Europe combined with a lack of rain, clear skies and dry soils, brought drought conditions especially to the southern and central parts of the continent. Many countries reported impacts on agriculture, river transport and energy management. Extremely dry conditions also led to increased fire danger resulting in unusually high fire activity in southwestern Europe, especially France and Spain.


Together with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), C3S reveals that atmospheric greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2022. Preliminary analysis of satellite data averaged over the whole atmospheric column, shows that carbon dioxide concentrations rose by approximately 2.1 ppm, while methane rose by around 12 ppb. This resulted in an annual average for 2022 of approximately 417 ppm for carbon dioxide and 1894 ppb for methane. For both gases this is the highest concentrations from the satellite record, and by including other records, the highest levels for over 2 million years for carbon dioxide and over 800 000 years for methane.

Annual global total emissions from vegetation fires continue to decline in relation to land use changes and declining savanna fires in the tropics. However, scientists from CAMS monitored significantly increased fire emissions in some regions of Europe where hotter and drier conditions contributed to increased flammability and fire danger. As a result, the total estimated summer (June-August) emissions from wildfires in the European Union and United Kingdom were the highest since 2007. France, Spain, Germany, and Slovenia experienced their highest summer wildfire emissions for at least the last 20 years, contributing to degraded air quality locally.

“Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, are the main drivers of climate change and we can see from our monitoring activities that atmospheric concentrations are continuing to rise with no signs of slowing” said Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. “Concentration changes are the result of both human and natural factors. Our ongoing efforts towards an operational verification support capacity of CO2 and CH4 emissions will provide immensely useful tools to assess more specifically the effectiveness of climate change mitigation measures.”





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