Temperatures in Europe are rising relatively quickly, but 'global warming alone does not say everything'

Temperatures in Europe are rising relatively quickly, but 'global warming alone does not say everything'

“Europe is the continent where temperatures are rising the fastest, with temperatures rising at about twice the global average.” The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union's climate agency, Copernicus, reported earlier this week. This indicates that something extraordinary is happening in Europe. But is this true?

Climatologist Alvaro Silva, advisor to the World Meteorological Organization, answers questions from Norwegian Refugee Council.

What does the World Meteorological Organization consider to be part of Europe?

“Then I will start with the fact that the World Meteorological Organization divides the world into six regions in climate analyses: Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Australia, and Europe. For example, the North American region includes Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

“The World Meteorological Organization distinguishes between two variants in Europe. One variant includes Europe and the European part of Russia. The other variant also includes Greenland and part of the Middle East.

In which Europe has the temperature risen by 2.3 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial period, the number that was reported in the news?

“This applies to both. It is the average warming over the last five years. If you just look at 2023, you will reach a temperature rise of about 2.5 degrees Celsius for the smaller European version and 2.6 for the larger one. This is mainly due to higher Greenland temperature quickly.

How quickly are other continents warming?

“We do not have a comparison with the pre-industrial period for all continents, because measurement data is not available for all regions dating back that far. We have dates from 1900 onwards.

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“The numbers show that Europe is no exception. There are more regions where temperatures are rising twice as fast or less than the global average. Europe is at the top, with temperatures rising by 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade since 1991. Then comes Asia, at a rate of 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade. The World Meteorological Organization also includes the Russian part east of the Ural Mountains, and North America comes in third place, where temperatures are warming about 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade.

The air over the oceans warms much more slowly than the air over land

How could these regions be warming twice as fast as the global average?

“The global average includes the rise in temperature over land and over sea. The air over the oceans heats up much more slowly than the air over land. Especially since water has a high heat storage capacity. The evaporation of water requires a lot of energy. This can no longer be used Energy to heat the air. On Earth, the soil does not always contain the same amount of moisture, and there is more energy to heat the air.

Why are regions in the Northern Hemisphere warming so quickly?

“Because they have large areas of land near the North Pole, this is the fastest warming around the world. Much faster than the other pole, Antarctica. This is partly because the Arctic is ice on water.” Antarctica South Pole is ice on land. Ice reflects a lot of sunlight, thus limiting the temperature rise. When the ice melts, you get a darker water surface that absorbs more sunlight. Excess heat is transferred from the tropics to the poles.

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“It's very different in the Southern Hemisphere. For example, a region like South America is warming at about the same global rate. Not only is it far from the North Pole, but also because the area of ​​oceans in the Southern Hemisphere is larger than that in the Southern Hemisphere.” North Sea ocean currents also play a role.

Why is Europe recording the highest rates of warming compared to Asia and North America?

“What we know is that the sunlight reaching the Earth's surface in Europe has increased. This is due to fewer clouds, especially in the summer. This is linked, among other things, to reducing air pollution. But I have no idea what this is like in Asia.” And North America.

But Europe is not as exceptional as that sentence in the WMO press release suggests?

“No. I would also add that the rise in temperature in itself does not say everything. In some areas the warming is much less, but the impact is much greater.”

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