Climate Change

UN Weather Agency: Europe’s Climate Change Shocks Trigger 94% Surge in Heat-Related Deaths!

Climate change shocks caused record levels of disruption and misery for millions in Europe in 2023 with widespread flooding and severe heatwaves – a new normal which countries must adapt to as a priority, the UN weather agency said on Monday. 

New data published jointly by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service confirmed fears that that 2023 was the joint warmest or second warmest year on record in Europe, depending on the dataset selected.

In practical terms, this led to a record number of days with “extreme heat stress” across Europe, with “an increasing trend” in the number “strong heat stress” days on the Continent.

“2023 was the joint warmest or second warmest year on record depending on the dataset,” WMO said. “Heat-related mortality has increased by around 30 per cent in the past 20 years and heat-related deaths are estimated to have increased in 94 per cent of the European regions monitored.”

Concretely, the 2023 European State of the Climate report indicates an increase in the number of “adverse health impacts” caused by extreme weather and climate events.

The findings reflect increasing wider climate change shocks beyond Europe, but they are particularly significant because the continent is the fastest-warming, WMO said.

“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our generation,” said Celeste Saulo, WMO Secretary-General. “The cost of climate action may seem high but the cost of inaction is much higher. As this report shows, we need to leverage science to provide solutions for the good of society.”

Researchers who tracked back a decade found that members of the public and some health providers also had “a low-risk perception” of the dangers of heat exhaustion. To counter this, early warning systems including the WMO’s Regional Climate Centre’s Climate Watch are designed to raise awareness of impending extreme weather events and encourage preparedness.

According to the UN agency, land temperatures in Europe were above average for 11 months of the year in 2023, including the warmest September on record. 

Rainfall was also seven per cent higher than average, WMO’s weather report found, with European rivers flowing at record levels in December and “exceptionally high” flow in almost a quarter of the river network. 

This meant that during 2023, “high” flood thresholds were crossed in one third of the European river network, while close to one in seven exceeded “severe” flood thresholds.

‘Beyond extreme’ sea heat spike

Record sea surface temperatures around Europe also reflected the deeply worrying warming trend on land, with an alarming “marine heatwave” present in June, in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland and around the United Kingdom. The event was classified as “extreme” and in some areas “beyond extreme”, WMO said, with sea surface temperatures as much as 5 Celsius above average.

“For the year as a whole, the average sea-surface temperature for the ocean across Europe was the warmest on record,” WMO said. “Parts of the Mediterranean Sea and the northeastern Atlantic Ocean saw their highest annual average sea-surface temperature on record.”

In a focus on sustainability and resilience to climate change shocks, the UN agency report underscored a record increase in electricity generation using renewable technology in Europe.

This was linked to higher-than-normal storm activity from October to December, which resulted in above-average wind power production. Also significant was above average hydroelectric power generation across much of Europe over 2023, linked to above-average rainfall and river flow.

On the other hand, solar panel power generation was below average in northwestern and central Europe, but above average in southwestern Europe, southern Europe and Scandinavia.

Fewer snow days

WMO’s State of the Climate update also confirmed suspicions that much of Europe experienced fewer days with snow than average, particularly across central Europe and the Alps over the winter and spring.

This resulted in “exceptional” glacier ice loss in the Alps, made worse by strong summer melt caused by heatwaves, with glaciers losing around 10 per cent of their remaining volume over 2022 and 2023.

Arctic shock

Data for 2023 did little to allay concerns about the earth’s poles, with Arctic temperatures the sixth warmest on record. For Arctic land, it was the fifth warmest, closely behind 2022. The five warmest years on record for Arctic land have all occurred since 2016.

Arctic Sea ice extent remained below average through most of 2023. At its annual maximum in March, the monthly extent was 4% below average, ranking fifth lowest on record. At its annual minimum in September, the monthly extent ranked sixth lowest, at 18% below average.

Total wildfire carbon emissions from the sub-Arctic and Arctic regions were the second highest on record. Most high-latitude wildfires occurred in Canada between May and September.



  1. Will the UN weather agency be implementing new policies to combat these alarming spikes in heat-related deaths in Europe?

    1. Yes, the UN weather agency has announced plans to implement new policies aimed at combating the alarming spikes in heat-related deaths in Europe. These policies will focus on improving early warning systems, promoting heatwave preparedness, and investing in sustainable climate adaptation measures across the continent.

  2. Do you think governments are taking enough action to combat the effects of climate change based on the spike in heat-related deaths reported by the UN weather agency?

  3. As the climate crisis worsens, it’s concerning to see the drastic impact on human lives in Europe. The rise in heat-related deaths by 94% is alarming. We must take urgent action to mitigate these effects and prioritize adaptation measures to protect vulnerable populations.

  4. In my opinion, the rise in heat-related deaths due to climate change shocks is a serious issue that needs urgent attention. It is alarming to see the significant increase in mortality rates across European regions. Countries must prioritize adaptation measures to mitigate the impact of extreme weather events.

  5. How can we ensure better preparation for such extreme weather events in the future?

  6. It is alarming to see the devastating impact of climate change on Europe, with a staggering 94% surge in heat-related deaths. The urgency to adapt and mitigate these consequences should be a top priority for all countries.

  7. As a resident of Europe, the impacts of climate change mentioned in this article are truly alarming. The surge in heat-related deaths is a stark reminder of the urgent need for countries to prioritize adaptation measures to combat these extreme weather events.

  8. Europe’s climate is clearly going through unprecedented changes. It’s alarming to see a 94% surge in heat-related deaths due to the impact of climate change. It’s crucial for countries to prioritize adaptation measures to address these challenges and protect their populations.

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