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Europe’s hottest summer on record would have been ‘almost impossible’ without human-induced climate change

Thousands of residents were evacuated from the Greek island of Evia amid a wildfire in August. (Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg News)

Europe’s hottest summer on record would have been “almost impossible without human induced climate change,” according to a new analysis that predicts such heat could now occur every three years.

The Hadley Center at Britain’s weather service released the findings Wednesday as two weeks of climate negotiations kicked off at the COP26 summit, after more than 100 heads of state and government met this week in Glasgow, Scotland. Leaders have come under pressure to act faster after a summer of fire and floods that brought weather disasters up close for many around the world.

The analysis estimates the likelihood of the blistering temperatures, running simulations to compare the climate today with how it would have been without human influence.

A European summer as hot as that of 2021 — with the June-August average nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) higher than that of 1991 to 2020 — will return every three years and could take place every year by the end of the century, the study found. Before the 1990s, the estimated frequency was once every thousands of years.

“We can be more confident than we’ve ever been about linking extreme weather events to climate change,” climate scientist Peter Stott said in a Met Office news release announcing the findings.

Floods, flames and heat: Images of this year’s extreme weather offer a stark backdrop for COP26 climate summit

The soaring temperatures in Europe over the summer heightened alarm about heat waves and raging wildfires, which swept other parts of the globe too. A weather station on the Italian island of Sicily recorded a temperature of 119.8 degrees in August, a potential record for Europe that could beat the last one verified by the World Meteorological Organization in Greece in July 1977.

The United Nations estimates that as early as the 2030s, the world could pass the goal of the 2015 Paris accord to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

Dozens of countries in Glasgow this week pledged to halt deforestation over the next decade, and signed a pledge for 30 percent cuts in methane emissions by 2030, to tackle two major contributors to warming. The plans spurred hope and a measure of skepticism from climate activists after other pledges that have fallen short in the past.

Wednesday’s study adds to mounting calls from scientists raising urgency about the warming of the planet. “The science is clear that the faster we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases,” Stott added, “the more we can avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.”

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Understanding our climate: Global warming is a real phenomenon, and weather disasters are undeniably linked to it. As temperatures rise, heat waves are more often sweeping the globe — and parts of the world are becoming too hot to survive.

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