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expert reaction to Copernicus European State of the Climate Report

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) have released their European State of the Climate Report.


Dr Paulo Ceppi, Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“The findings are broadly in line with our expectation that the climate is steadily warming as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase. From a climate change perspective, the main findings of the report are related to the temperature changes. Apart from the increase in average temperature, another indicator of climate change is the repeated occurrence of extreme warm events (February, June, July), combined with the absence of extreme cold events.

“These observations that Europe has warmed more than other areas are consistent with theory and climate modelling evidence. We do not expect warming to be uniform across the globe. Rather, middle- and high-latitude regions are expected to warm faster than the tropics, and land regions are also expected to warm faster than the oceans. Both these factors contribute to enhanced European warming relative to the global mean. There may also be a contribution of natural decadal climate variability to this enhanced European warming, although human-induced greenhouse gas increases are the leading cause.

“The report says little about precipitation *trends*. It does mention extreme precipitation events in November across W/S Europe, and extreme rainfall is also expected to become more common as the climate warms, but it is difficult to say without further investigation how important climate change was for this event.

“Arctic temperatures have risen even faster than European temperatures over recent decades (also consistent with theory and modelling). The report mentions slightly lower Arctic temperatures than in recent years, but it is normal for temperatures to vary from year to year, especially over the Arctic where they are highly variable. This does not affect our conclusions about rapid long-term warming in the Arctic. The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere (SROCC, Sep 2019) mentions that the Arctic warmed more than twice as fast as the global average over the last two decades.”


Dr Anna Jones, a climate scientist at British Antarctic Survey, said:

“I’m not surprised at all by the findings in this report. Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are obstinately increasing as a result of human-activity. With this rise, come changes in our climate – warming trends, and events of extreme weather. The findings of the report are entirely consistent with our understanding of human-induced climate change. For things to improve, we need massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – there is no other way.”


Prof Kevin Cowtan, Professor at the Department of Chemistry at the University of York, said:

“The Copernicus report is important because the project uses different data streams and methods than commonly reported datasets from the UK Met Office, NASA and NOAA. That they reach similar conclusions is further confirmation of the impact of human activity on global climate, which continues to progress largely in line with projections from both physical and statistical models.

“Since the mid 20th century, scientists have predicted that some parts of the planet, including land areas and the Arctic, will warm faster than others. The Arctic has shown very rapid winter warming, as expected due to the heat trapping effect of carbon gasses. Arctic summer temperatures are much more stable because of heat required to melt ice and the Arctic ocean heat sink, and so do not show as much variation from year to year.”


Prof Daniela Schmidt, Professor in Palaeobiology, University of Bristol, said:

“Staying below 1.5 degrees global average warming is considered necessary to keep us safe from the impacts of climate change. This analysis  shows that globally warming is already above 1 degree and regionally this warming is amplified, like in Europe. While pollution has dropped with economic activity in response to the global pandemic, CO2 is not just disappearing overnight. The impact of the warming – like sea level rise – will be with us for centuries. The pandemic has made us less able to tackle the impact of climate change impacts. Our communities which have just been flooded will find sheltering in their damaged homes much more challenging.  We have also learned, though, during the last months that actions taken together make a difference.”


Prof Andrew Shepherd, Director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University of Leeds, said:

“Europe’s climate is often tied to conditions in the Arctic, and changes there can have a huge impact on our lives.  The warming Europe has experienced over the past year is part of a wider pattern that has led to record loss of ice from Greenland, and this has in turn driven up sea levels around the planet faster than expected – tracking the IPCC’s worst case predictions.  We can’t avoid the rapid changes in climate that are happening around our planet, even if the occur miles away in the polar regions, because they affect our weather today and will affect our coastlines in the future.”


Professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading said:

“Certainly our world is warming worryingly fast. Even looking at the variations in the weather over the last decades, which can be quite big at times, there is an ongoing trend of warming and record breaking weather extremes.

“It is clear that we just don’t understand enough about the feedbacks in our earth system. Having datasets like this are vital not only for scientists understanding climate change but also for those living on the threshold of disasters, in places already under threat from tropical cyclones, drought, famine and now COVID-19. We couldn’t do this without the significant input from satellites, climate models and serious investment in science.

“In lockdown, sitting on our sofas or our makeshift desks or in many more difficult situations, it would be easy for us to take our eyes off this alarming reality; that 2019 was the warmest year on record for Europe, that November brought us massively more precipitation than normal. And for every decade I have been on this planet it has been getting hotter and hotter and hotter. 

“There are already some indicators that some parts of Europe might be heading towards drought conditions this summer.”


Prof Rowan Sutton, Director of Science (Climate) for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), University of Reading, said:

“Europe has indeed been warming significantly faster than the global average.  This is for two reasons.  First, land regions in general are warming faster than the oceans, largely because the greater availability of moisture over the oceans damps the rate of warming. Secondly, reductions in specific forms of air pollution (“anthropogenic aerosols”) have contributed to the recent warming in Europe, particularly in summer.”


The Copernicus European State of the Climate Report was published in at 10:00 UK time on Wednesday 22nd April.


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