Heatwaves in Europe and India

Record extreme temperatures were experienced in Europe during June, July and August 2003. At many locations temperature rose to over 40 °C. In France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, over 20, 000 (possibly as many as 35 000) additional deaths were attributed to the unrelenting heat. Spain, Portugal, France and countries in Central and Eastern Europe suffered from intense forest fi res.59 Figure 7.19 illustrates the rarity of this event showing that it is well outside normal climate variability. Studies indicate that most of the risk of this event arose from increase in greenhouse gases due to human activities. They also indicate that it will represent a normal year by 2050 and a cool year by 2100.

Extreme heat was also experienced in 2003 in other parts of the world; for instance in Andhra Pradesh in India over 1000 people died through extreme temperatures above 45 °C that occurred most unusually for 27 consecutive days.

Figure 7.19 Characteristics of the summer 2003 heatwave in Europe. (a) June, July, August (JJA) temperature anomaly with respect to 1961-90; (b) to (d) JJA temperatures for Switzerland; (b) observed during 1864-2003; (c) simulated with a regional model for the period 1961-90; (d) simulated for 2071-2100 under the SRES A2 scenario. The vertical bars in (b) to (d) represent mean summer surface temperature for each year of the time period considered; the fitted Gaussian distribution is indicated in black.

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