5 Things to Know About Europe's Scorching Heatwave
Connect with us

Environment

5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

Published

on

5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

For the last few months, Europe’s smoldering heatwave has been wreaking havoc across the region, causing destructive wildfires, severe droughts, and thousands of deaths.

The EU’s record-breaking temperatures are making headlines around the world, as experts worry these extreme heatwaves could be the region’s new normal.

Given the volume of coverage on the topic, we sifted through dozens of articles and Twitter threads (so you don’t have to) and complied a list of the five major things to know about Europe’s smothering heatwave.

① High Temperatures are Shattering Records

Temperatures have been hitting all-time highs across the region.

On Monday, July 18, dozens of towns across France reported record-breaking temperatures of up to 42°C (107.6°F). In the same week, the UK experienced its hottest day on record at 40.3°C (104.5°F), breaking Britain’s previous record of (38.7°C) 101.7°F that was set back in 2019.

The heat in London was so unprecedented, the city’s national rail service issued a warning to the public, urging passengers to stay home and only travel if necessary. Some major rail lines were even closed for parts of the day on Tuesday, July 19.

② Europe is Feeling the Burn

The smoldering heat is fueling disastrous wildfires across the continent. As of July 20, an estimated 1,977 wildfires have blazed across the region in 2022—almost 3x the average amount, according to historical data from the European Forest Fire Information System.

Mediterranean countries have been hit particularly hard, with thousands of people in Portugal, Spain, and France evacuating their homes.

③ Going With the (Low) Flow

Along with the devastating wildfires, Europe’s heatwave is also causing a series of droughts across the region.

While most European cities have at least one river or lake crossing their urban landscape, these rivers and bodies of water are at risk of drying out. For instance in early July, Italy’s Po River was experiencing a drought so severe, that the country’s government issued a state of emergency in five different regions.

④ Energy Demands are Creating an Awkward Situation

Last year, Europe set ambitious goals to cut 55% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

But, in the wake of a global energy crisis, many European countries have put their green transition plans on hold as they turn to “dirtier” fuels like coal to keep their economies running business-as-usual. This timing is a tad awkward, considering the fact the region is currently ablaze with record-breaking temperatures that experts believe are human-induced.

The aforementioned “low flow” on many European rivers are also impacting hydroelectricity and even nuclear electricity generation, as too little water is available for cooling purposes.

On the bright side, at least Germany has made some progress in the realm of renewable energy—on July 17, the country generated a record-breaking amount of electricity from solar panels.

⑤ Climate Change is a Factor, but Heatwaves are Complicated

Experts claim that climate change is playing a part in these record-breaking heatwaves. Around the world, global surface temperatures have risen by about 1.0°C (1.8°F) since the 1850s, and scientists claim this temperature increase has been indisputably influenced by human activity.

However, there may be other factors that are influencing these extreme heatwaves. While the exact specifics are difficult to nail down due to the variable nature of the climate, a recent study published in Nature Communications found that Europe’s escalating heatwaves could be partly attributed to changing air currents, which are blowing hot air from North Africa to Europe.

The Bottom Line

At least 1,500 lives have been lost so far amidst this record-breaking heatwave. And since temperatures are expected to remain high across the region for at least another week, this figure will likely increase.

European homes are generally not well equipped for exceptionally high temperatures, and since the continent has the oldest median age of any region, its population is particularly susceptible to the negative effects of extreme weather.

Livelihoods are also being impacted by the extreme weather. Temperatures are drying out soil, which is creating poor growing conditions for corn farmers in France, Romania, and Spain, the region’s top corn producers.

Long story short—Europe’s heatwave is having disastrous effects on its economy and infrastructure, as well as the overall wellbeing of the region’s population.

Update: The map from cool.wx was revised to better reflect Europe’s present day borders.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

Energy

Visualizing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector

The U.S. emits about 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases a year. Here’s how these emissions rank by sector.

Published

on

The following content is sponsored by National Public Utilities Council.


Visualizing U.S. Emissions by Sector

Decarbonization efforts in the U.S. are ramping up, and in 2020, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were lower than at any point during the previous 30 years.

However there’s still work to be done before various organizations, states, and nationwide targets are met. And when looking at GHG emissions by sector, the data suggests that some groups have more work cut out for them than others.

This graphic from the National Public Utilities Council provides the key data and trends on the total emissions by U.S. sector since 1990.

The Highest Emitting Sectors

Collectively, the U.S. emitted 5,981 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions in 2020, which rose 6.1% in 2021.

Here’s how the various sectors in the U.S. compare.

Sector2020 GHG emissions, MMT CO2ePercentage of Total
Transportation1,627.627%
Electricity generation1,482.625%
Industry1,426.224%
Agriculture635.111%
Commercial425.37%
Residential362.06%
U.S. territories23.0<1%

The transportation sector ranks highest by emissions and has been notably impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still affecting travel and supply chains. This has led to whipsawing figures during the last two years.

For instance, in 2020, the transportation sector’s emissions fell 15%, the steepest fall of any sector. But the largest increase in emissions in 2021 also came from transportation, which is largely credited to the economic and tourism recovery last year.

Following transportation, electricity generation accounted for a quarter of U.S. GHG emissions in 2020, with fossil fuel combustion making up nearly 99% of the sector’s emissions. The other 1% includes waste incineration and other power generation technologies like renewables and nuclear power, which produce emissions during the initial stages of raw material extraction and construction.

Decarbonizing the Power Sector

The Biden Administration has set a goal to make the U.S. power grid run on 100% clean energy by 2035—a key factor in achieving the country’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Industrial factories, commercial buildings, and homes all consume electricity to power their machinery and appliances. Therefore, the power sector can help reduce their carbon footprint by supplying more clean electricity, although this largely depends on the availability of infrastructure for transmission.

Here’s how sectors would look if their respective electricity end-use is taken into account

SectorEmissions by Sector % of Total
Agriculture11%
Transportation27%
Industry30%
Residential & Commercial30%

Percentages may not add up to 100% due to independent rounding

With these adjustments, the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors experience a notable jump, and lead ahead of other categories

Today, the bulk of electricity generation, 60%, comes from natural gas and coal-fired power plants, with nuclear, renewables, and other sources making up 40% of the total.

Energy Source2020 Electric generation, billion kWhShare of total
Natural Gas1,57538.3%
Coal89921.8%
Nuclear77818.9%
Wind3809.2%
Hydropower2606.3%

However, progress and notable strides have been made towards sustainable energy. In 2021, renewables accounted for one-fifth of U.S. electricity generation, roughly doubling their share since 2010.

Coal’s share as a source of electric power has dropped dramatically in recent years. And partially as a result, electricity generation has seen its portion of emissions successfully decrease by 21% , with overall emissions falling from 1,880 million metric tons of CO2 to 1,482 million metric tons.

How Utilities Can Lead the Way

Should these trends persist, the electricity generation sector has a chance to play a pivotal role in the broader decarbonization initiative. And with the bulk of electricity generation in the U.S. coming from investor-owned utilities (IOUs), this is a unique opportunity for IOUs to lead the transition toward cleaner energy.

The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource to learn how utilities can lead in the path towards decarbonization.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

You may also like

Subscribe

Continue Reading

Energy

Mapped: Average Wind Speed Across the U.S.

Wind is a great renewable energy source, but the spread of potential power is uneven. This graphic maps the average wind speed of the continental U.S.

Published

on

a map of average wind speed across the continental U.S. in 2021

Mapped: Average Wind Speed Across the U.S.

Wind energy is a hot topic in North America and around the world as a decarbonization tool, but full utilization requires a lot of wind.

This graphic from the team at the Woodwell Climate Research Center maps the average wind speed of the continental U.S. based on NOAA data from 2021.

Zooming in, you can examine North America’s wind regions and patterns in great detail. Clearly visible is the concentration of high wind speeds in the Great Plains (known as the Prairies in Canada), which has the greatest potential for wind power. You can also follow westerly winds traveling through the North American Cordillera of mountains, including the Rocky Mountains and Cascades.

Meanwhile, the Eastern U.S. and Canada have significantly lower average wind speeds, especially in the American South. That’s despite hurricanes with extremely high winds occasionally moving northward along the Eastern Seaboard towards the North Atlantic.

For more on on U.S. energy, head to Visualizing the Flow of U.S. Energy Consumption.
Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular