European heatwaves ‘have doubled’

August 7, 2007 at 4:32 pm | Posted in Austria, Belgium, Climate change, Climate science, Croatia, Czech Republic, Della-Marta, Denmark, Europe, Extremes, Finland, France, Germany, Haylock, Ireland, JGR, Luterbacher, MeteoSwiss, Netherlands, Observations, Portugal, Spain, Summer, Sweden, Switzerland, Temperatures, UK, United Kingdom, University of Bern, University of East Anglia | Leave a comment

The duration of heatwaves in Western Europe has doubled since 1880, a study has shown. The authors of the research also discovered that the frequency of extremely hot days has nearly tripled in the past century.

The study suggests many previous assessments of daily summer temperature underestimated the change in heatwaves in Western Europe by about 30%.The research appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) – Atmospheres.

Read European heatwaves ‘have doubled’ by Paul Rincon, Science reporter, BBC News (dated 4 August 2007) … or continue with this post to access the study below …

For some reason, the BBC is was the only British paper to report on this study so far this weekend, but now a ‘della-marta’ news search on Google reveals a few more publications have picked up this story, including Catherine Brahic in NewScientist Environment as Europe’s recent heatwaves aren’t a mirage.

Unfortunately, I am not able to access the study in JGR (without parting with $9 as a non-subscriber) but some of my readers may find this abstract interesting:

Full Article (Nonsubscribers may purchase for $9.00, Includes print PDF, file size: 630392 bytes)

JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 112, D15103, doi:10.1029/2007JD008510, 2007

Doubled length of western European summer heat waves since 1880

P. M. Della-Marta

Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology, MeteoSwiss, Zurich, Switzerland
Bureau of Meteorology, National Climate Centre, Melbourne, Australia

M. R. Haylock

Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

J. Luterbacher

Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
National Center of Competence in Research on Climate (NCCR), Bern, Switzerland

H. Wanner

Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
National Center of Competence in Research on Climate (NCCR), Bern, Switzerland


We analyzed a new data set of 54 high-quality homogenized daily maximum temperature series from western Europe (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom) to define more accurately the change in extreme warm Daily Summer Maximum Temperature (DSMT). Results from the daily temperature homogeneity analysis suggest that many instrumental measurements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were warm-biased. Correcting for these biases, over the period 1880 to 2005 the length of summer heat waves over western Europe has doubled and the frequency of hot days has almost tripled. The DSMT Probability Density Function (PDF) shows significant changes in the mean (+1.6 ± 0.4°C) and variance (+6 ± 2%). These conclusions help further the evidence that western Europe’s climate has become more extreme than previously thought and that the hypothesized increase in variance of future summer temperature has indeed been a reality over the last 126 years.

Received 5 February 2007; accepted 16 May 2007; published 3 August 2007.

Keywords: Climate extremes; observations; temperature.

Della-Marta P. M., M. R. Haylock, J. Luterbacher, H. Wanner (2007), Doubled length of western European summer heat waves since 1880, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D15103, doi:10.1029/2007JD008510.

This is an interesting abstract (not only because it covers a region I am familiar with and across which I used to design and provide technical support for national and global networks): I wonder how this particular study compares with studies of temperatures in North America, with respect to observed extremes as well as corrections for instrumental biases?


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