Home » 2023 was marked by widespread flooding and severe heat waves in Europe

2023 was marked by widespread flooding and severe heat waves in Europe

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The economic damage caused by these weather phenomena amounted to 13.4 billion euros in 2023, although this does not yet include heat waves.

During the past year, a third of all rivers in Europe measured a flow exceeding the threshold value for ‘high’ flooding. The even higher ‘severe’ flood threshold was reached in sixteen percent. Record levels or levels close to them were recorded in the Loire, Rhine and Danube, among others.

About 1.6 million Europeans will be affected by flooding in 2023. This is due to heavier rainfall than normal (+7 percent for the whole of 2023), which puts 2023 in the top 4 wettest years on record, and a series of storms in October and December. In December, rivers in Europe reached their highest combined level ever. The floods, which were mainly felt in Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Norway and Sweden, caused more than 80 percent of the total economic damage suffered.

2.3 degrees warmer

In addition, with a temperature 2.3 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, 2023 was also tied for the warmest or second warmest year on record in Europe, depending on the dataset used. In eleven of the twelve months the mercury was higher than average. In addition, a record number of days of extreme heat stress were also recorded last year.

Furthermore, the largest forest fire ever recorded on European soil was recorded in Greece. About 960 square kilometers, or twice the area of ​​the capital Athens, went up in flames. Spread across Europe, 5,000 square kilometers of nature will disappear in 2023. That is as much as the area of ​​London, Paris and Berlin combined.

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Bright spot: more renewable energy

2023 was also a record year at sea, with the highest sea surface temperature ever recorded. A heatwave was recorded to the west of Ireland and the United Kingdom, more than 5 degrees Celsius above average.

2023 was once again not a good year for snow and ice. Fewer snow days were recorded in almost all of Europe. In the past two years, the glaciers in the Alps have lost a tenth of their ice mass.

Yet there is also a bright spot: in 2023, a record share of 43 percent of electricity production from renewable energy was achieved. That is 7 percentage points more than the year before. For the second consecutive year, more energy was generated from renewable energy than from fossil fuels.

At least 151 dead

“In 2023, Europe witnessed the largest forest fires on record, one of the wettest years, severe marine heatwaves and widespread devastating flooding,” said Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus, summarizing the past year. “These phenomena will only increase in frequency and intensity in the coming years.”

The extreme weather phenomena killed 151 people in 2023. This does not yet include the number of people who died as a result of the heat.

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