11th Dec 2023

Expect more heatwaves, droughts, floods, and fires this summer, EU agency warns

  • In summer 2021, floods in Germany and Belgium caused more than 200 deaths, while Spain last year recorded 4,600 deaths related to heatwaves (Photo: Andreas Janke)
Listen to article

This summer Europe is facing more severe, longer and more frequent heatwaves, droughts, floods, and wildfires — which pose a significant risk to nature, human health and the economy.

The summer outlook is "pessimistic" and requires upscaling of adaptation strategies and preparedness to avoid the worst impacts of extreme weather events, a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) warned on Wednesday (14 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Heatwaves are becoming more common, intense and longer than before and are expected to continue to do so — potentially leading to an increasing number of deaths and hospital admissions.

While climate change has made deadly heatwaves at least ten times more likely in some parts of Europe, southern Europe is likely to suffer the most.

Countries like Spain, Portugal or Italy could have more than 60 summer days with weather conditions that are "dangerous" to human health, especially the elderly and the sick, the report warns.

Spain, where temperatures exceeded 45 degrees in the summer of 2022, recorded 4,600 deaths related to heatwaves.

Billions in loses

Meanwhile, flood risks are also increasing in Europe, especially in northwestern and central countries.

In the summer of 2021, extreme rain caused more than 200 fatalities in Germany and Belgium, with €50bn in estimated losses and damages. This became the most costly weather event since the 1980s.

Damages related to water floods amounted to nearly €258bn over the last 40 years, steadily increasing on average by over two percent every year.

On top of that, economic losses linked to droughts are also expected to rise from €9bn to €25bn under 1.5 degrees of global warming scenario, reaching up to €45bn at three degrees of global warming.

In the report, EEA experts recommend upscaling adaptation measures such as increasing the number of trees and water spaces in cities that could lower temperatures and reduce the risk of flooding.

Half of Europe has been witnessing extreme dry conditions in the winter and the summer since 2018. But long-term projections indicate that southern and central Europe will turn even drier and hotter, negatively impacting farmers and food production.

Last year, droughts led to a soil-moisture deficit, reducing crop yields and agricultural production in several member states.

Italy, for example, experienced €1bn in agricultural losses due to water shortages and droughts.

These previous experiences show that adaptation measures in agriculture are more needed than ever. "Without more adaptation, yields and farm incomes are projected to decline in the future," reads the report.

Earlier wildfires

While most wildfires in Europe are caused by humans, dry conditions and high temperatures also increase their intensity.

Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz, from the EU commission joint research centre, said that the wildfire season this year has started earlier — with peaks of fires in February, March and May due to the intense drought in 2022 and a very dry winter that most European countries experienced.

Last year, wildfires burn twice the area of Luxembourg during the summer, hitting sensitive ecosystems and nature protection areas (especially in Spain, Romania and Portugal).

On top of that, warmer conditions are also a source of concern for epidemiologists since Europe could face the widespread of some species such as ticks and tiger mosquitos which can spread numerous diseases.

Adapting to Southern Europe's 'new normal' — from droughts to floods

Extreme weather events in recent months have worsened agricultural production in southern Europe, prompting concerns for authorities in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. As countries will likely face dryer conditions, experts urge adaptation measures for the 'new normal'.

UN: economic decisions turn extreme weather into disasters

The period between 2021 and 2022 saw record-breaking catastrophic disasters in all corners of the world. Some 10,000 people lost their lives, but in a new report UN researchers write much of this can be prevented.

July hasn’t been hotter in 120,000 years

July 2023 is expected to become the warmest month ever recorded, with global temperatures approximately 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. And this is just a "foretaste of the future", the World Meteorological Organization warned.

Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief

With less than a month to go before the start of a new leadership of the European Investment Bank, the world's largest multilateral lender, the path seems finally clear for one of the candidates, Spanish finance minister Nadia Calviño.


Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

While some strengths may have been overlooked recently, leading to a more pessimistic outlook on the EU and the euro area than the truly deserve, are there reasons for optimism?

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us