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Europe’s Hottest Summer Led to 20,000 Excess Deaths

High temperatures recorded in 2022 were made much more likely by climate change, scientists say

Drought-damaged corn plants near Luckau, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. 

Drought-damaged corn plants near Luckau, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. 

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Europe’s hottest summer on record likely resulted in more than 20,000 excess deaths in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, according to official data. 

The excess deaths — the difference between the total number of deaths in the summer of 2022 and the historical average — were particularly elevated during the three intense heat waves that struck Western Europe between June and August. 

Extreme heat is dangerous for human health because it makes every existing medical condition worse and can cause heat stroke in vulnerable populations like children, the elderly and those who do physical work outside.

Europe experienced the hottest summer on record for the second consecutive year in 2022, according to the EU’s Earth observation agency Copernicus. Climate change made the heat wave that struck the UK in June at least 10 times more likely, according to World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists that conducts rapid analysis on how the warming of the planet influences extreme weather events. The new UK heat record of 40.3C (104.5F) was set on July 19 and broke by 1.6C the previous high mark set in 2019. Forty-six UK weather stations recorded new highs that month.