European State of the Climate 2017

Freja Vamborg


The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), both implemented by ECMWF, presented their first European State of the Climate report at the European Parliament in Brussels on 10 April. The event was co-hosted by Members of the EU Parliament Flavio Zanonato and Klaus Buchner.

The presentation showcased the benefits of freely accessible environmental data and information for a better understanding of our planet and informed decision-making. It also showed how Copernicus, the European Union’s flagship programme to monitor the Earth’s environment, helps European businesses to adapt to an evolving environment.

To address the challenges of climate change, the Copernicus services monitor data on a global scale, including surface air temperature, precipitation, sea ice area and atmospheric greenhouse gases. The report’s findings are based on measurements from satellites and ground stations, and on data from global reanalysis – a consistent combination of computer modelling and multiple data sources.

The European State of the Climate 2017 covers two main themes: the climate in 2017 and headline climate indicators. The former compares the annual and seasonal climate from 2017 with the reference period 1981–2010, focusing mostly on Europe. The section on headline climate indicators deals with long-term key indicators for global and regional climate change.

The climate in 2017 findings highlight two regions: the European sector of the Arctic and the southwest of Europe, focusing on the ‘Lucifer’ heat wave. The report found that:

  •  the European average temperature in 2017 overall was 0.8°C higher than the 1981–2010 average, making the year the fifth or sixth warmest on record, depending on the dataset considered;
  •  during the final months of 2017, some land areas of the north Atlantic Arctic experienced monthly temperatures more than 6°C above the 1981–2010 average;
  •  in the European sector of the Arctic, sea ice cover was much lower than average during the first three months of the year, and January showed the largest negative anomaly on record;
  •  in southwestern Europe, spring was one of the warmest on record at close to 1.7°C above the 1981–2010 average;
  •  annual temperatures in the region were the highest on record and soil moisture was the lowest, with heat waves gripping Portugal and Spain during the summer and drought persisting in southern and central Italy throughout the year.

The headline climate indicators show the long-term evolution of several key climate variables. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Global temperatures have risen by about 1.1°C since the start of the industrial era and by about 1.8°C in Europe since the latter half of the 19th century;
  •  The net surface fluxes into the atmosphere of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have been increasing in recent decades;
  •  Arctic sea ice area is in a downward trend, especially since the year 2000, while glaciers both globally and in Europe have seen a strong and continued ice mass loss since about 2000;
  •  The global mean sea level has risen by about 8 centimetres in the past 25 years and the mean sea level has increased by 1 to 2 mm per year in most European coastal areas.

The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rises to well below 2°C compared with the pre-industrial era, and to pursue efforts to restrict it to 1.5°C. The latest five-year average global temperature is the highest on record. Copernicus is the world’s third-largest data provider, and its services are part of a broader effort to support the Paris Agreement.

The European State of the Climate 2017 report is available online at:

Soil moisture anomalies. The figure shows seasonal soil moisture anomalies for winter, spring, summer and autumn 2017 relative to the respective seasonal average for the period 1981–2010. Southwest Europe experienced a year of large negative soil moisture anomalies, especially during spring and autumn, whereas Scandinavia and the Baltic region saw large positive anomalies during both summer and autumn. Data Source: ERA-Interim reanalysis. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF.