The extremely hot and dry 2018 summer in central and northern Europe from a multi-faceted weather and climate perspective

E. Rousi, A.H. Fink, L.S. Andersen, F.N. Becker, G. Beobide-Arsuaga, M. Breil, G. Cozzi, J. Heinke, L. Jach, D. Niermann, D. Petrovic, A. Richling, J. Riebold, S. Steidl, L. Suarez-Gutierrez, J.S. Tradowsky, D. Coumou, A. Düsterhus, F. Ellsäßer, G. FragkoulidisD. Gliksman, D. Handorf, K. Haustein, K. Kornhuber, H. Kunstmann, J.G. Pinto, K. Warrach-Sagi, E. Xoplaki

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The summer of 2018 was an extraordinary season in climatological terms for northern and central Europe, bringing simultaneous, widespread, and concurrent heat and drought extremes in large parts of the continent with extensive impacts on agriculture, forests, water supply, and the socio-economic sector. Here, we present a comprehensive, multi-faceted analysis of the 2018 extreme summer in terms of heat and drought in central and northern Europe, with a particular focus on Germany. The heatwave first affected Scandinavia in mid-July and shifted towards central Europe in late July, while Iberia was primarily affected in early August. The atmospheric circulation was characterized by strongly positive blocking anomalies over Europe, in combination with a positive summer North Atlantic Oscillation and a double jet stream configuration before the initiation of the heatwave. In terms of possible precursors common to previous European heatwaves, the Eurasian double-jet structure and a tripolar sea surface temperature anomaly over the North Atlantic were already identified in spring. While in the early stages over Scandinavia the air masses at mid and upper levels were often of a remote, maritime origin, at later stages over Iberia the air masses primarily had a local-to-regional origin. The drought affected Germany the most, starting with warmer than average conditions in spring, associated with enhanced latent heat release that initiated a severe depletion of soil moisture. During summer, a continued precipitation deficit exacerbated the problem, leading to hydrological and agricultural drought. A probabilistic attribution assessment of the heatwave in Germany showed that such events of prolonged heat have become more likely due to anthropogenic global warming. Regarding future projections, an extreme summer such as that of 2018 is expected to occur every 2 out of 3 years in Europe in a +1.5 ∘C warmer world and virtually every single year in a +2 ∘C warmer world. With such large-scale and impactful extreme events becoming more frequent and intense under anthropogenic climate change, comprehensive and multi-faceted studies like the one presented here quantify the multitude of their effects and provide valuable information as a basis for adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Original languageUndefined
JournalNatural hazards and earth system sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


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