Europe set for 50°C summers without climate progress, Met Office warns

Analysis shows that what was a once-in-10,000-year high temperature will now happen every three years

Climate change means European heatwaves, such as the record temperatures reached this year, could routinely hit 50°C, the UK Met Office has warned.

A new European record temperature of 48.8°C was recorded in Sicily, Italy, in a summer during which wildfires burned out of control from Portugal to Russia. Countries further north also recorded unusually high temperatures.

The 48.8°C temperatures, in the absence of climate change, would be expected to happen only once in 10,000 years. But because of global warming, the likelihood of a repeat has been slashed to a once-in-three-years event.

“Our analysis shows that what is now a one-in-three-year event would have been almost impossible without human-induced climate change,” Met Office climate attribution scientist Dr Nikos Christidis said.

“This is another example of how climate change is already making our weather extremes more severe.”

By the end of the century the conditions could be seen every year, Met Office analysis showed.

“The increasing chances of these extreme events continue to rise,” Prof Peter Stott of the Met Office said. “We can be more confident than we've ever been about linking extreme weather events to climate change.”

Britain's summer this year was its ninth warmest on record.

Southern Europe experienced intense heatwaves and wildfires this summer and experts warn climate change increases the intensity and frequency of such extreme weather events.

At Cop26, countries are looking to adopt climate-friendly measures to stop temperatures from rising at such a rate.

But despite some optimism, world leaders need to translate their words and promises into action when they return to their home countries, campaigners say.

Updated: November 3rd 2021, 2:38 PM