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News : Innovation Last Updated: Jan 6, 2015 - 3:14 AM


2014 hottest year in Europe in 500 years - linked to global warming
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Dec 17, 2014 - 6:02 AM

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Globally, as well as in Europe, nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded have all occurred since 2000. No annual cold record has been set in Europe since 1956 as warming is making hot years hotter and more frequent. No year has broken the record for cold globally, since 1911.

2014 is expected to be confirmed as the hottest year in Europe in 500 years and three independent climate science teams from the UK, the Netherlands, and Australia say that global warming significantly contributed to this year's high temperatures.

Initial estimates based on observations, reanalysis and forecasts show that the annual (January to December) mean temperature for Europe will be 0.3˚C above the previous record of 2007. Using observations from January to November only, the European averaged temperature is even more extreme. With the exception of 1989, the 10 warmest years on record all occurred since 2000.

Nineteen European countries are very likely to see their hottest year on record, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

For France and most of Germany, the percentage of warm day-times outnumbers the percentage warm nights. This is the opposite for the UK, Denmark, the Iberian Peninsula, Italy and the Balkans where there are a lot more warm nights than warm day-times. The high frequency of warm nights is relevant from the health perspective; high night-time temperatures have adverse effects on human health.

To assess the potential link between Europe's record-breaking hottest year and global warming, Climate Central coordinated an effort with scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the University of Oxford, the University of Melbourne and the Australia National University. The three teams conducted independent assessments, using different approaches involving statistical analyses of the historical temperature record from a combination of E-OBS and the Climatic Research Unit and the results of thousands of simulations with state-of-the-art climate models.

Scientists at Oxford university found global warming had increased the risk of the 2014 record by at least a factor of 10 while researchers in The Netherlands and Australia said the odds had been boosted by 35 to 80 times.

"In the early 1900s, before global warming played a significant role in our climate, the chances of getting a year as warm as 2014 were less than 1-in-10,000. In fact, the number is so low that we could not compute it with confidence," Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate scientist at KNMI, said. The analysis by van Oldenborgh concluded that global warming has made a temperature anomaly like the one observed in 2014 in Europe at least 80 times more likely. For many individual countries the probability has increased by at least a factor of 30 (e.g., the UK, many countries in Central Europe).

“When looking at smaller regions in Europe, we notice that there is a higher variability of temperatures,” Karsten Haustein, a scientist at the University of Oxford, who conducted the analysis, said. “For example, in central Europe we found that the probability of reaching the observed 2014 temperatures is about 40 times higher. In an even smaller region such as the UK, we found that the probability has increased by a factor of about 10.”

"By comparing climate model simulations representing the world as it is with simulations of a world without humans, we show that the risk of warm years like 2014 occurring has very likely increased by at least 35-fold,” said Andrew King, a climate scientist from the University of Melbourne who conducted the analysis. “This means that human-induced climate change has very likely played a significant role in 2014 being a record hot year for Europe."

The KNMI said 2014 was the hottest year in The Netherlands since records began in 1706. The annual average temperature of approximately 11.5 degrees to 10.1 degrees normal. This is considerably higher than the previously warmest years 2006 and 2007, which had an annual average of 11.2 degrees. Although 2014 was the warmest year in three centuries there was no heat wave in the summer.

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