Europe suffered record number of 'extreme heat stress' days in 2023

Europe endured a record number of "extreme heat stress" days in 2023, two leading climate monitors said Monday, underscoring the threat of increasingly deadly summers across the continent.

In a year of contrasting extremes, Europe witnessed scorching heatwaves but also catastrophic flooding, withering droughts, violent storms and its largest wildfire.

These disasters inflicted billions of dollars in damages and impacted more than two million people, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service and the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a new joint report.

The consequences for health were particularly acute, with heat singled out by these agencies as the biggest climate-related threat as global warming drives ever-hotter European summers.

"We're seeing an increasing trend in the number of days with heat stress across Europe and 2023 was no exception, with Europe seeing a record number of days with extreme heat stress," said Rebecca Emerton, a climate scientist at Copernicus.

For this study, Copernicus and WMO used the Universal Thermal Climate Index, which measures the effect of the environment on the human body.

It takes into account not just high temperatures but also humidity, wind speed, sunshine, and heat emitted by the surroundings.

The index has 10 different categories of heat and cold stress, with units of degrees Celsius representing a 'feels-like' temperature.

Extreme heat stress "is equivalent to a feels-like temperature of more than 46 degrees Celsius, at which point it's imperative to take actions to avoid health risks such as heat stroke", said Emerton.

 'Extended summer' 

Prolonged exposure to heat stress is particularly dangerous for vulnerable...

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