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2023 begins with climate warnings as warm weather sweeps Europe

2023 begins with climate warnings as warm weather sweeps Europe


Ski slopes in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina pictured in early January with barely any snow. Photo credit: Reuters / Kirsten Donovan.

By Anders Lorenzen

2022 was dominated by extreme weather events, and if the start of 2023 is anything to go by, this trend is set to continue.

As 2022 turned into 2023, record-high temperatures swept across the European continent,  prompting activists to call for faster action on climate change. The warmer weather has, of course, also meant a respite for the countries struggling with high gas prices, as there is a reduced demand for heating needs.

Several weather records were broken in many countries. Hungary recorded its warmest-ever Christmas Eve, and on the 1st of January, temperatures climbed to 18.9 degrees C in the capital Budapest.

In France, the night between the 30th and the 31st of December was the warmest since records began. In the southwest of the country, normally popular ski destinations at this time of the year, temperatures reached 25 degrees C on the 1st of January.

In Germany, temperatures were measured, not previously seen in the country since records began in 1881, as the mercury passed 20 degrees C.

In Spain`s Basque region, the city of Bilbao experienced temperatures which passed 25.1 C degrees.

The role of climate change

It is too early for scientists to have analysed this hot spell of weather and to determine how much climate change played a role  However, it does fit with the longer-term trend predicted by climate modelling. Climate change, fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels, makes extreme weather events not only more likely but also more powerful and prolonged.

Freja Vamborg, a climate scientist at the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said: “Winters are becoming warmer in Europe as a result of global temperatures increasing.”

Dr Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London added: “The record-breaking heat across Europe over the new year was made more likely to happen by human-caused climate change, just as climate change is now making every heatwave more likely and hotter.”

Europe’s southern and eastern ski resorts have already paid a huge economic price for this continuing hot spell. Many ski lovers are thinking twice before booking a ski holiday in those locations this season, and wondering what winter sports will look like in a warmer world.

While the freak temperatures seem to have peaked, many countries across Europe are still experiencing mild temperatures well above normal for this time of year, and scientists have said this is actually a long-lived extreme weather event.

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