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Temperature extremes in Europe (CLIM 003) - Assessment DRAFT created Sep 2008

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More recent information can be found on indicator CSI 012 Global and European Temperature
which covers same issues and is more frequently updated. 
Update planned for November 2012.


Generic metadata


Climate change Climate change (Primary topic)

Environmental scenarios Environmental scenarios

climate | climate change | frost | global warming | heat | temperatures
Typology: N/A
Indicator codes
  • CLIM 003
Geographic coverage:

Key policy question: .

Key messages

  • Extremes of cold have become less frequent in Europe while warm extremes have become more frequent. The frequency of hot days almost tripled between 1880 and 2005.
  • For Europe as a whole heat waves are projected to increase in frequency, intensity and duration, whereas winter temperature variability and the number of cold and frost extremes are projected to decrease further. The European regions projected to be most affected are the Iberian Peninsula, central Europe including the Alps, the eastern Adriatic seaboard, and southern Greece.

Observed changes in warm spells and frost days indices 1976-2006

Note: N/A

Data source:

The data comes from two projects: ENSEMBLES ( and ECA&D (

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Modelled number of tropical nights over Europe during summer (June-August) 1961-1990 and 2071-2100

Note: Reference period (1961-1990) (left), scenario period (2071-2100) (centre) and change between periods (right)

Data source:

Dankers, R. and Hiederer, R., 2008. Extreme Temperatures and Precipitation in Europe: Analysis of a High-Resolution Climate Change Scenario. EUR 23291 EN. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities Luxembourg. 66 pp.

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Summer 2003 (June-August) daily maximum temperature anomaly

Note: N/A

Data source:

The data comes from two projects: ENSEMBLES ( and ECA&D (

Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Past trends

High-temperature extremes like hot days, tropical nights, and heat waves have become more frequent, while low-temperature extremes (e.g. cold spells, frost days) have become less frequent (Klein Tank et al., 2002; IPCC, 2007a; Figure 1). The average length of summer heat waves over Western Europe doubled over the period 1880 to 2005 and the frequency of hot days almost tripled (Della-Marta et al., 2007).
A hot day is defined as one where the daily maximum temperature exceeds the long-term daily 95th percentile of daily maximum temperature; a tropical night is one with minimum temperature > 20 oC, a heat wave is a period of at least six consecutive days with maximum temperature > 30 oC); a cold spell is a period of at least six consecutive days with minimum temperature below the 10th percentile of daily minimum temperature (e.g. for the period 1961-1990); frost days are defined as days with daily minimum temperature below 0 oC).


Extreme high temperature events across Europe, along with the overall warming, are projected to become more frequent, intense and longer this century (Schar et al., 2004; Tebaldi et al., 2006; IPCC, 2007a, 2007b; Beniston et al., 2007). Likewise, night temperatures are projected to increase considerably (Figure 2) possibly leading to additional health problems and even mortality (Halsnaes et al., 2007; Sillman and Roekner, 2008), at least partly compensated by reduced mortality in winter. 
Geographically, the maximum temperature during summer is projected to increase far more in southern and central Europe than in northern Europe, whereas the largest reduction in the occurrence of cold extremes is projected for northern Europe (Kjelstrom et al., 2007; Sillman and Roekner, 2008). Under the A2 scenario, central Europe, for example, is projected to experience the same number of hot days as are currently experienced in Spain and Sicily by the end of the 21st century (Beniston et al., 2007).

Data sources

  • No datasets have been specified.

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info



EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)


European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100