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Parts of Europe have exceeded two degrees of warming

According to a new study by researchers at Stockholm University, the rate of climate warming across large parts of Europe is double the average rate found in the rest of the world. 

Estimates from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that the global greenhouse gas emissions budget to limit warming to 1.5 degrees has already been used up. 

In the new study, the experts found that the emissions budget to avoid two degrees of warming has also been used up across large parts of Europe during the summer half-year from April to September. Some regions have already surpassed two degrees of warming in the summer months. 

As a direct result of greenhouse gas emissions, the European continent has become much drier. This greatly increases the risk of heat waves and wildfires. 

“Climate change is serious as it leads to, among other things, more frequent heat waves in Europe. These, in turn, increase the risk of fires, such as the devastating fires in southern Europe in the summer of 2022,” said study lead author Professor Paul Glantz.

A positive feedback caused by global warming is clearly evident in southern Europe. In this reinforcing feedback loop, drier soil and decreased evaporation are contributing to climate warming, and vice versa. 

“What we see in southern Europe is in line what IPCC has predicted, which is that an increased human impact on the greenhouse effect would lead to dry areas on Earth becoming even drier,” said Professor Glantz.

The study reveals that decreasing aerosol particles have also perpetuated climate warming across Europe. These particles have a short term cooling effect. However, emissions of aerosol particles have decreased over the last few decades in Europe, and the rate of warming has been further accelerated.

“The airborne aerosol particles, before they began to decrease in the early 1980s in Europe, have masked the warming caused by human greenhouse gases by just over one degree on average for the summer half-year,” explained Professor Glantz. “As the aerosols in the atmosphere decreased, the temperature increased rapidly. Human emissions of carbon dioxide are still the biggest threat as they affect the climate for hundreds to thousands of years.”

“Aerosol particles cool the planet, but this effect is short-lived in comparison with human impact on the greenhouse effect,” wrote the researchers. “This study shows that the greatest cooling effect in Europe has taken place in Central and Eastern Europe over the past four decades.” 

“The average temperature for the period April-September has increased by around 1°C due to reduced levels of aerosol particles. This is relevant for other areas of the Earth where the levels of aerosol particles are elevated today. This means that aerosol particles mask future warming if emissions begin to decrease, for example, in Eastern China and India.”

The research is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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