VOA Learning English

Climate Agencies: Europe Is Fastest-warming Land Mass

VOA Learning English • voa
April 22, 2024 4 minSource

A new report from two international climate agencies has found that Europe is the fastest-warming major land mass in the world.

The report for 2023 is a product of the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s climate agency, Copernicus. The document states that parts of Spain, France, Italy and Greece reported up to ten days of extreme heat stress in 2023.

Heat stress measures a mix of environmental effects on the human body in an effort to establish a “feels like” temperature. This level is defined as a temperature that feels like more than 46 degrees Celsius. Health experts say heat stress can present immediate risks of heat stroke and other conditions

Elisabeth Hamdouch is a member of the EU’s executive commission and works on Copernicus activities. She told the Associated Press Europe’s heat stress last year was marked by “record temperatures, wildfires, heat waves, glacier ice loss and lack of snowfall.”

The report said that temperatures in Europe are currently rising at about twice the worldwide average. Deaths related to heat in Europe have increased by about 30 percent over the last 20 years, it said. Last year, the researchers said more than 150 lives were directly lost in connection with storms, floods and wildfires.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by extreme climate events in 2023,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus’ Climate Change Service. He added that the climate effects were responsible for economic losses across Europe estimated to be “at least in the tens of billions of euros.”

Last month, Copernicus urged governments to prepare healthcare systems for the increasing effects of climate change. It also called on the EU to establish rules to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat.

The report noted that the release of greenhouse gases was the biggest cause of last year's exceptional heat. Other environmental effects also played a part in the high temperatures, including the El Niño current in the Pacific Ocean.

El Niño is a warming of surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. This event usually causes hot, dry weather in Asia and Australia and also can drive weather changes in other parts of the world.

The report noted that severe heat can fuel other extreme weather, including flooding. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture , possibly causing more rain if the right conditions exist.

In Slovenia, floods affected 1.5 million people last year. Greece suffered the EU's biggest wildfire on record, reportedly stretching 960 square kilometers. And mountain glaciers shrank about 10 percent during 2022 and 2023, the report said.

Copernicus’ Buontempo said, "Some of the events of 2023 took the scientific community by surprise because of their intensity, their speed of onset, extent and duration ."

Copernicus reported that March marked the 10th straight month of record monthly temperatures. The agency has reported record world temperatures every month since last June. The latest report said the average sea surface temperature for ocean areas across Europe reached its highest yearly level in 2023.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.

Words in This Story

stress – n. physical force on something

heat stroke –n. when body temperature is too high for too long, and organs begin to fail as a result

greenhouse gas – n. a gas in the Earth’s atmosphere that can trap heat

moisture – n. very small drops of water in the air or on a surface

glacier – n. a very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land

extent – n. the size or importance of something

duration – n. how long something lasts

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