An international research team involving ETH Zurich has compared the hot summers of 2003 and 2010 in detail for the first time. Last year's heatwave across Eastern Europe and Russia was unprecedented in every respect: Europe has never experienced so large summer temperature anomalies in the last 500 years.


   The summer of 2010 was extreme. Russia was especially hard hit by the extraordinary heat: in Moscow, daytime temperatures of 38.2°C were recorded and it didn't get much cooler at night. Devastating fires caused by the dry conditions covered an area of 1 million hectares, causing crop failures of around 25%; the total damage ran to about USD 15 billion. Even though passengers were also collapsing on trains in Germany in 2010 because the air-con units had failed in the heat, the general perception is still that the summer of 2003 was the most extreme -- among Western Europeans at least. An international research team involving ETH Zurich has now compared the two heatwaves and just published their findings in Science.


    With this in mind, the researchers compared the latest heatwaves with data from previous centuries. Average daily temperatures are available back as far as 1871. For any earlier than that, the researchers used seasonal reconstructions derived from tree rings, ice cores and historical documents from archives. The summers of 2003 and 2010 broke 500-year-old records across half of Europe. Fischer stresses: "You can't attribute isolated events like the heatwaves of 2003 or 2010 to climate change. That said, it's remarkable that these two record summers and three more very hot ones all happened in the last decade. The clustering of record heatwaves within a single decade does make you stop and think."


Picture credits : ETH Zürich

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