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EU Climate Report - Key Findings of the Climate State 2021

April 22, 2022: Europe experienced its warmest summer on record in 2021, accompanied by severe floods in western Europe and dry conditions in the Mediterranean. These are just some of the key findings from the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s European State of the Climate report released today. The in-depth report provides key insights and a comprehensive analysis of climate conditions in 2021, with a special focus on Europe and the Arctic. 1)

The Copernicus Climate Change Service, implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission, released its 5th edition of the report today on Earth Day.

The report is compiled from a range of data sources from satellite to in situ, with contributions from international climate science experts which includes Copernicus partners and national meteorological bodies.

The 2021 global perspective includes increasing surface air and sea surface temperatures, sea level rise and glacier mass loss, while Europe saw a year of extremes including heatwaves, record sea surface temperatures, wildfires, flooding, and unusually low wind speeds in some regions.

The full report, covering a wide-range of variables and themes, is a useful tool for scientists, climate-specialised journalists, policymakers and professionals working in climate-sensitive sectors, such as tourism, agriculture or renewable energy.


Figure 1: European State of the Climate Key Events 2021. Europe experienced its warmest summer on record in 2021, accompanied by severe floods in western Europe and dry conditions in the Mediterranean. These are just some of the key findings from the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s European State of the Climate report released today (image credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service)

Key Findings


• The report confirms that the last seven years were the warmest on record, with 2021 ranking between 5th and 7th warmest.

• The average global sea surface temperature for 2021 was over the 6th or 7th warmest since 1850. However, there is a clear increase globally both over land and sea compared to pre-industrial levels, with global surface air temperatures having increased 1.1 and 1.2°C.

• In 2021, global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane continued to increase. There was an especially large rise in atmospheric methane concentration. Estimates from satellite data show that concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by around 2.3 ppm and 16.5 ppb, respectively.


• Europe experienced a year of contrasts: while the European spring was cooler than average, summer brought record temperatures (at 1.0°C above the 1991-2020 average) as well as severe and long-lasting heatwaves.

• During the summer heatwave, many temperature records were broken, including a provisional national record for Spain at 47.0°C and a provisional European record of 48.8°C in Italy. The widespread dry conditions were conducive to numerous, devastating wildfires, particularly in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

• In June and July, sea surface temperatures were also unusually warm, with parts of the Baltic more than 5°C higher than average.

• Record rainfall contributed to severe flooding in western Europe including Belgium, Germany and some surrounding countries.

• Annual sea surface temperatures in large areas of the Baltic and eastern Mediterranean Seas were the highest since at least 1992.

• Annual wind speeds across parts of western and central Europe were among the lowest since at least 1979, leading to a reduction in the estimated potential for wind power generation.


• Carbon emissions from the Arctic wildfires were the 4th highest since records began in 2003, mostly from eastern Siberia, although they were below the record levels seen in 2020.

• Sea ice minimum reached its 12th lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979.

• The Greenland Sea saw its lowest minimum sea ice extent on record.


Figure 2: Northwest Greenland is featured in this icy image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- Lying in the North Atlantic Ocean, Greenland is the world’s largest island and is home to the second largest ice sheet after Antarctica. Greenland’s ice sheet covers more than 1.7 million sq km and covers most of the island.

- Ice sheets form in areas where snow that falls in winter does not melt entirely over the summer. Over thousands of years, layers of snow pile up into thick masses of ice, growing thicker and denser as the new snow and ice layers compress the older layers.

- Ice sheets are constantly in motion. Near the coast, most of the ice moves through relatively fast-moving outlets called ice streams, glaciers and ice shelves.

- In the top centre of this image, captured on 29 July 2019, the Petermann glacier is visible. Petermann is one of the largest glaciers connecting the Greenland ice sheet with the Arctic Ocean. Upon reaching the sea, a number of these large outlet glaciers extend into the water with a floating ‘ice tongue’. Icebergs occasionally break or ‘calve’ off these tongues.

- In this image, sea ice and icebergs can be seen in the Nares Strait – the waterway between Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island, visible top left in the image.

- On the tip of Ellesmere Island lies Alert – the northernmost known settlement in the world. Inhabited mainly by military and scientific personnel on rotation, Alert is about 800 km from the closest community, which is roughly the same distance from Alert to the North Pole.

- Scientists have used data from Earth-observing satellites to monitor Greenland’s ice sheet. According to a recent study, both Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass six times faster than they were in 1990s. Between 1992 and 2017, Greenland lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice – corresponding to around 10 mm contribution to global sea-level rise.

- Melting ice sheets caused by rising temperatures and the subsequent rising of sea levels is a devastating consequence of climate change, especially for low-lying coastal areas. The continued satellite observations of the Greenland ice sheet are critical in understanding whether ice mass loss will continue to accelerate and the full implications of this anticipated change.

Figure 3: This week's edition of the Earth from Space programme features an icy image of Northwest Greenland captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission (video credit: ESA)

Read the full European State of the Climate 2021 report

About Copernicus and ESA

Copernicus is the most ambitious Earth observation programme to date. It provides accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security. These services fall into six main categories: land management, the marine environment, atmosphere, emergency response, security and climate change.

This initiative is headed by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).

1) ”Key findings from the European State of the Climate Report,” ESA Applications, 22 April 2022, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (