People sit on a beach in La Grande Motte, southern France, on June 28. (Pascal Guyot/AFP)

Europe just went through its hottest June on record, punctuated by a historic heat wave in the final week. Climate change played a role by making the heat wave considerably stronger and more likely to occur than in the past, according to scientists who analyzed the event.

Numerous European countries, including Germany and Austria, posted their highest average temperatures for the month of June. The scorching late-June heat wave that was focused over western and central Europe followed a consistently hot month across much of the continent.

“Average temperatures were more than 2 Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] above normal and it has become the hottest June ever recorded,” the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Copernicus program announced Tuesday.


June temperatures compared with normal. (NOAA/ESRL, modified by author)

ECMWF reported that June ended about 1.8 degrees (1 Celsius) above the previous record for the month, set in 1999. It added that the June temperature for Europe was about 1.8 degrees (1 Celsius) higher than the expected trend based on historical data.

Countries that set June records across Europe include Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Turkey. Additions are possible as the data continues to be tabulated.

Early findings indicate the late-month heat wave, which shattered daily, monthly and all-time maximum records, was made stronger and more likely by climate change.

“Similarly frequent heat waves would have likely been about 4 Celsius [7.2 degrees Fahrenheit] cooler a century ago,” concluded the World Weather Attribution project, the effort of several academic institutes in Europe that evaluate the role of climate change on extreme weather.


(ECMWF)

In France, 13 locations surpassed the previous highest temperature ever recorded in the country — not just in June but also any month. That distinction is important, since the country’s most extreme heat usually doesn’t happen until July or early August. The heat wave’s highest temperature of 114.6 degrees, posted in Gallargues-le-Montueux, was 3.2 degrees above the old record set during an infamous July-August 2003 heat wave.

As in several parts of France, many temperature records in June were not just beaten but also destroyed, and in widespread fashion.

In Germany, the World Meteorological Organization wrote, “243 observing stations set new June temperature records, with many of these being all-time temperature records.” In Switzerland, more than half of stations set June records.

The authors of the attribution study warn there is more to come.

Referencing the recent heat, they wrote, “Combining models and observations we conclude that the heat wave was made at least 5 times more likely."