Hottest summer ever? Experts reveal what could be in store for Europe in the next few months

Hottest summer ever? Experts reveal what could be in store for Europe in the next few months

Heatwaves have hit Europe earlier than ever this year, with Greece, Cyprus, Türkiye and Italy already hit by extreme heat, with some places seeing temperatures 10C above the seasonal average.

The risk of heatwaves at the Paris Olympic Games has left organisers sweating about the safety of athletes. Spain is bracing itself for another blistering summer, releasing a new map to help with more accurate heatwave predictions. Cities across the continent are preparing with adaptations for extreme heat.

We’ve now had 11 record-breaking months of heat in a row and sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have soared to their highest in at least 40 years.

So you can see why forecasters have warned that the continent could be in for another unusually hot summer - possibly even the hottest on record.

So what do we know about the weather in Europe this summer and can we expect extreme heat across the continent?

Will this summer be unusually hot in Europe?

When it comes to heatwaves or individual weather extremes, no one has a crystal ball. But past weather can give forecasters some clues.

“It's incredibly difficult to accurately predict how the weather is going to be months ahead, let alone even weeks and sometimes days,” says Tamsin Green, a meteorologist from forecasting service Weather & Radar.

This is because the weather across Europe is extremely changeable with countless different influencing factors.

Meteorologists can, however, look at weather models and data for general trends - including monthly temperature averages. Currently, it looks like June, July and August are all trending above average in terms of temperature, according to Green.

Customers enjoy the relief of a fan as they sit at a bar in downtown Rome.
Customers enjoy the relief of a fan as they sit at a bar in downtown Rome. - AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Weather across the continent varies too making it difficult to predict where a ‘hot summer’ might hit. Green says there are likely to be hotspots in Southern and Eastern Europe.

Western Europe could see average rainfall in June, then above average rainfall for southern Europe in July but drier conditions in the east. August, she adds, is likely to be drier and more settled for much of the continent.

Green reminds us, however, that these are just averages. This means there could be major fluctuations or extremes that happen within these conditions.

What influences Europe’s weather?

Lots of different factors influence Europe’s changeable weather. The world is currently in a transitional phase between the El Niño and La Niña climate phenomena, for example, which is “crucial” to determining global weather and temperature patterns.

We’re forecast to remain in this neutral phase until at least the start of summer but the effects of El Niño are still ongoing.

“In recent months, the air temperatures and ocean temperatures are still astronomically high. They're still persisting,” Green says.

Despite El Niño being defined as above-average sea surface temperatures and increased rainfall in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, it has global effects.

A boy cools off in a public fountain in Vilnius, Lithuania.
A boy cools off in a public fountain in Vilnius, Lithuania. - AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

She explains that “like a domino effect”, weather in one place can affect conditions on the other side of the planet. If there is increased rainfall somewhere in the world there will be reduced rainfall elsewhere.

Europe, for example, often gets the remnants of tropical storms which bring rain and winds. Storm activity in the Atlantic, during hurricane season this June to November, is likely to be turbocharged as La Niña forms in the Pacific depressing storminess there.

Europe is warming faster than the global average

There’s one factor, however, which plays a major part in the continent’s increasingly warm summers and that is human-caused climate change.

“One thing that is a massive, undeniable factor that cannot be ignored is that we are constantly breaking heat records,” Green says.

“The last ten years have been the ten warmest on record, with most of the Earth warming occurring in the last 40 years. We've seen April 2024 coming in as the 11th month in a row with the hottest on record.”

Europe has been warming at twice the global average since 1991, according to recent data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and EU climate agency Copernicus (C3S). The continent is “no exception” when it comes to the consequences of climate change with both agencies warning that Europe needs to do more to cut its emissions and transition away from fossil fuels.

23 of the continent’s 30 most severe heatwaves have happened since 2000 - five were in the last three years.

The latest five-year average shows that temperatures in Europe are now running 2.3C above pre-industrial levels compared to 1.3C higher globally.

Because of this, Green believes “with a pretty good degree of certainty” that 2024 will probably be yet another record-breaking year.

“Despite how the forecasts might be shaping up, the trends of the rising global temperatures are undeniable.”