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Europe just experienced the hottest summer in its history

Amid scorching heat waves, brutal drought and widespread forest fires, Europe has just experienced its hottest summer on record, according to new data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

It was the second consecutive historic summer for the continent, with average temperatures 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the previous record set last year, Copernicus said on Thursday. August was a particularly hot month, topping the 2018 record by a whopping 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit).

In a statement, Copernicus lead scientist Freja Vamborg described the past three months as “a summer of extremes”.

The combination of record high temperatures and extraordinarily dry conditions fueled by climate change has wreaked havoc across the continent. Officials have attributed thousands of deaths to the long stretches of oppressive weather. Crops withered and forests turned brown and barren as Western Europe was gripped by the worst drought in centuries. Wildfires raged from the Caucasus Mountains to the Atlantic coast, with flames consuming about 50% more land than the previous record set in 2017.

The historic season has been significantly worsened by human-caused warming, scientists say. A recent analysis found that the burning of fossil fuels and other carbon-emitting activities made a July heatwave in Britain 10 times more likely. Other research shows that the climate cycle of hot weather and dry landscapes can lead to the formation of “heat domes” that deflect rainy weather and force the continent to bake in the inevitable sun and heat.

Globally, temperatures in August are tied for the third hottest on record, Copernicus said. Heat waves have scorched much of China, making this the hottest summer in the country. Drought is affecting the western United States and Canada. Even the south pole was warmer than usual for this period; sea ​​ice extent around Antarctica reached a record high in July.

Human-made greenhouse gas pollution is warming the planet at a rate not seen since before the fall of the Roman Empire, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Average global temperatures are now at least 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than they were before the industrial age began. Each of the past seven years ranks among the seven warmest on record; even natural fluctuations, such as the current climate cooling in the Pacific Ocean, cannot reverse the relentless human-caused warming trend.

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In the northern hemisphere, the dangers of climate change become most acute in the summer. From US national parks to the cobbled streets of French villages, steadily rising temperatures have turned what is usually a time of joy into a season of disaster.

During the famous Tour de France, when the world’s best cyclists spent three weeks pedaling from the Belgian border through the Alps, over the shores of the Mediterranean to the streets of Paris, organizers had to spray the roads of water to prevent them from melting.

Torrential rains in Yellowstone – made more likely by a warmer atmosphere that can hold more water – have flooded one of the park’s main roads and devastated surrounding economies.

In China, a heatwave lasting more than 10 weeks shut down factories and forced power cuts. At least eight people were killed in Seoul when the South Korean capital was inundated by record storms. And water shortages in northern Mexico have gotten so bad that people have sabotaged pipes and kidnapped truckers just to find something to drink.

Many parts of the world have also suffered severe weather whiplash, as climate change disrupts usual seasonal patterns and makes weather patterns less predictable.