By eagle102.net - originally posted to Flickr as Polar Bear Plunge, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5875488
11 Jan 2023

January 2023 heatwave in Europe - 17 dead in California rain storm


The first few days of January 2023 saw unusual temperatures in two continents - New York had yet another large fire caused by e-bike batteries and a plane headed for Germany had to make an emergency landing because of a burning laptop. 

This article was originally written January 4th. 

UPDATE January 11: The flooding in northern California is continuing and according to Governor Gavin Newsom, the worst of the rainstorm may yet to come. 

17 people have died, including a five year old boy swept away by flood waters, since the rain storm started during the first few days of 2023. 

According to BBC News, around 90% of Californians - around 34 million people - were under flood watch, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The fire department of the town of Montecito ordered immediate evacuation of all residents on Monday January 9th. 

The US National Weather Service (NWS) reported that up to 14in (35.5cm) of rain in the last 24 hours in the region.

Across California, average total rainfall has been between 400% and 600% above average, the NWS said on Tuesday.


An unusual beginning of the year in Europe and North America

According to Copernicus, Europe and the polar regions were affected the most by climate change during 2022.  The BBC writes in a January 10, 2023 article that Europe experienced its warmest summer, with temperatures increasing by more than twice the global average over the past three decades - this is faster than any other continent.

The last eight years are now also the warmest eight yet recorded.

"We're already experiencing climate change now," said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, to the BBC. 

"The heatwaves that we saw in Europe over the summer, but also the spring, and also the autumn ... many people will remember the heatwave that we had over the New Year's period as well. So we're seeing heat waves, not only in the summer, but in the rest of the seasons."

Over the past 30 years, temperatures in European countries have increased by more than twice the global average.

According to the Copernicus service, Europe has the highest rate of temperature increase of any continent in the world.

Extreme weather finished off the year of 2022, after a year of unusual heat waves, a very difficult forest fire season and several  deadly storms. Only a few days into the new year, it seems 2023 may possibly continue on the same theme  - at least judging from some of the unusually warm temperatures recording in Europe. 

In Spain, New Year's Day temperatures in Bilbao were equivalent to the average in July, and parts of Catalonia including the regional capital of Barcelona have been issued restrictions on water use. In Switzerland, temperatures hit a high of 20C, and the recent warm weather has severely affected ski resorts across the Alps. 

However, as some people in southern Europe celebrated New Years Eve on the beach, the US is preparing for yet another set of winter storms, just as the recent flooding in northern California is starting to pull back form the flooded streets and roadways. 


More record breaking temperature highs in Europe over the New years weekend

(Source: SVT.se)

Czech Republic: 19.6 C  & 67.2 F in the city of Javorník 

Poland: 19.0 C / 66.2 F in Korbielow och Jodłownik 

Netherlands: 16.9 C / 32 F in Eindhoven 

Belarus: 16.4 C / 61.5 F in Visokaye 

Lithuania : 14.6 C / 61.9 in Marijampole 

Denmark: 12.6 C / 54.7 in Abed

Latvia: 11.1 C / 52 F in Daugavpils 


Rain and flooding in California kills 2 or more

On New Year's Day, more than 15 million people from the West Coast to Wisconsin were under winter weather alerts on  Sunday January 1st as a storm system causing life-threatening flooding in California pushed eastward. According to CNN,  at least two people have been killed and many others needed rescue from the flooding in parts of northern California over the New Year's weekend.

Thousands of Californians were affected by power outages and flooded roads after high winds and record-setting rainfall battered the state. The city of Oakland had its wettest day on record on New year's Eve, with 12 cm / 4.75 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.  This broke  the previous record set on January 4, 1982, according to the National Weather Service office in San Francisco. 


Heatwave in Europe, cold snap in North America - researchers warning for more extreme weather in 2023

According to BBC World, temperatures for January have reached an all-time high in a number of nations across Europe. National records been broken in eight countries , and regional records in another three countries. Warsaw, Poland, saw 18.9C 66F on New Years Day while Bilbao, Spain, had 25.1C - more than 10C above average.

The mild European weather comes at the same time as  North America faces more severe storms, only days after a deadly winter cold snap killed more than 60 people and left countless homes and business without power. 

For parts of the the US on the other hand, heavy snow and freezing rain have been in the forecast for some areas in the northern Midwest. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are expected in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

It's not warm everywhere in Europe either. Colder temperatures and snow are in the forecast for parts of Scandinavia.  Temperature's in Moscow are expected to drop to -20C by the weekend.


Climate change is by far the most expensive event humanity has created for itself... The costs are in the same category as a world war


According to an article published on SVT.se, the high temperatures in Europe are caused by warm winds blowing northwards from Western Africa.  It cannot be proven that the last few week's extreme temperatures are connected to climate change, however according to Swedish meteorologist Tora Tomasdottir, "it is highly unusual that so many records are broken in only a few days".  Citing Swedish environmental and climate researcher Mikael Karlsson, "climate change is by far the most expensive event humanity has created for itself... The costs are in the same category as a world war",  he claims.



Photo Credit: (cover Photo Above): Wikipedia Commons License, By eagle102.net - originally posted to Flickr as Polar Bear Plunge, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5875488

polar bear plunge is an event held during the winter where participants enter a body of water despite the low temperature. In the United States, polar bear plunges are usually held to raise money for a charitable organization. In Canada, polar bear swims are usually held on New Year's Day to celebrate the new year.