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Temperature extremes in Europe

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 18 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 11 Sep 2015, 12:49 PM

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This content has been archived on 13 Jul 2015, reason: Other (New version data-and-maps/indicators/global-and-european-temperature-1/assessment was published)
Indicator codes: CSI 012 , CLIM 001

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.


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

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).

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

  • Observed changes in warm spells and frost days indices 1976-2006
  • Modelled number of tropical nights over Europe during summer (June-August) 1961-1990 and 2071-2100


Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified


Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

  • No datasets have been specified.

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
  • CSI 012
  • CLIM 001

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