PARIS — In June 2003, a high-pressure weather system took hold over Western Europe and hovered there for weeks, bringing warm tropical air to the region and making that summer the hottest since at least 1540, the year King Henry VIII discarded his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.
Temperatures were about 2.3 degrees Celsius, or 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit, above average that summer, contributing to perhaps 70,000 additional deaths and hitting the elderly particularly hard. The heat was a factorin the outbreak of forest fires and in lower than usual crop yields. It caused Alpine glaciers to shrink at a rate double that seen in the previous record summer five years earlier.
Now, three scientists from the Met Office, the British weather agency, have concluded that human-caused global warming is going to make European summer heat waves “commonplace” by the 2040s.
Their findings, published on Monday in the online journal Nature Climate Change, suggest that once every five years, Europe is likely to experience “a very hot summer,” in which temperatures are about 1.6 degrees Celsius, or 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit, above the 1961-90 average. This is up from a probability, just a decade ago, that such events would occur only once every 52 years, a 10-fold increase.