Heat and cold — mean air temperature

It is now beyond question… Europe is getting hotter. Average surface air temperature gives a clear and consistent signal of global and regional climate change. It has a direct impact on natural ecosystems, agriculture, and human health and well-being. Rising temperatures affect all types of ecosystems through shifts in species distribution and population structure and increase the risk of species extinction. These changes can impact ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, and affect crop production. Higher temperatures also naturally increase the risk of arid conditions and droughts.

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Heat and cold — extreme heat

Much of Europe has experienced intense heatwaves since 2000, with notable impacts on human health and socio-economic systems. Extreme heat is closely linked to higher death rates and hospital admissions and generally affects the well-being and productivity of workers. The death toll for the 2003 European heatwave alone is believed to have topped 70 000 (according to the World Meteorological Organization - (WMO, 2021: WMO atlas of mortality and economic losses from weather, climate and water extremes (1970-2019)). Urban areas are especially vulnerable to increasing heat stress because of the ‘urban heat island’ effect. Extreme heat also affects transport and energy infrastructure, agriculture and biodiversity, and it increases the likelihood of wildfires.

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Heat and cold — frost days

Frost and extreme cold play a major role in several sectors across Europe, including agriculture, forestry, construction, transport and tourism. The timing of frost, for example, can affect seasonal farming and cropping cycles in surprising ways (e.g. late spring frost before harvesting can be devastating for fruit trees, but some crops need frost during winter to stimulate flowering). Increases in freeze-thaw cycles, starting below 0 °C and warming during the day, can damage roads, buildings and other infrastructure.

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