There is little doubt that the European heatwave of 2003 was one of the defining meteorological events of the last hundred years.
Climate scientists have often held it up as an example of what the future has in store as global warming takes hold. Indeed, every time the sun comes out in summer, we seem to get the mantra that “heatwaves are becoming more common.”
We heard the usual nonsense this summer when southern Europe had a hot spell. It was even given a name, Lucifer. The Telegraph reported:
Unusually high temperatures, in some cases unprecedented, are being recorded across an area spanning much of the Iberian peninsula, southern France, Italy, the Balkans, and Hungary.
But was this summer abnormally hot, and have we been seeing 2003-style heatwaves since?
It was France which was most seriously affected back in 2003, so let’s start there, with Limoges in the south west of the country:
The summer of 2003 stands out very clearly. This summer, while warmer than average, was 2.1°C cooler than 2003. It was also no hotter than 1976.
In Spain, the 2003 heatwave was less pronounced. As the temperature record at Alicante shows, despite the hype, this summer was not even as hot as 1952.
And at Pisa in Italy, this summer was 2.7C cooler than 2003. As in Spain, summer temperatures in 1950 and 1952 were at a similar level.
All of these places are, of course, heavily urbanized, so much of the recent increase in temperatures may be due to UHI. There are very few genuinely rural stations in these countries with long-term records, at least not in the GHCN record anyway.
There is one, however, at Mont Aigoul, in central France. When we look at the record there, we find that it was as hot or hotter than this summer in 1949, 1950 and 1951.
The heatwave in 2003 was clearly an anomalous meteorological event, but there is no evidence that it has any climatic significance or that it tells us anything about future summer weather. It is similar in this respect to the dustbowl years in the US.
Climate scientists have used it to scaremonger about global warming. It is time for them to drop this pretense, and admit they were wrong.
All temperature data from GISS:
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