Drought, heat waves, storms… What exactly are the different factors involved in these phenomena? Could they have been better anticipated? Is this summer exceptional, or does it foreshadow a new climatic norm?
The combination of high temperatures, low reserves of water stored in groundwater, and lack of precipitation, partly explain these exceptional episodes.
Let’s come back with our guests to the events of this summer and the expected awareness.
Climatic events this summer
It was an exceptional summer, climatically, in more ways than one. Françoise Vimeux, climatologist, looks back on the summer period to explain the unprecedented nature of these climatic events:
Heatwaves and heat waves
We had three heat waves this summer, including a particularly early one, at the beginning of June. Météo France has been listing them since 1947 on our territory. There have been 46 heat waves since that year.
A heat wave is defined as follows: “For at least three days, there must be an average daily temperature above 25.3°C on around thirty Météo France stations well distributed over the national territory.”
The summer of 2022 therefore has three heat waves, which is quite rare. Françoise Vimeux explains: “When you look at the number of heat waves per year since 1947, you often have none, and sometimes one or two. In 2017, we had four, but they were short and not very intense.”
Marine heat waves have also increased, both in frequency and intensity. And they concern a surface of the ocean which is much larger than before. This was strongly observed in Corsica this summer for example. And according to Françoise Vimeux, we expect them to multiply in the future.
The drought this summer in France had been partly announced but the heat came to aggravate it, as the climatologist explains to us, because of a kind of vicious circle: “Drought is the lack of rain that we have had since winter, the beginning of the year. This lack of rain has created a dryness in the soil which has been aggravated by the heat waves. And when there was no more water in the soil, which also made the heat worse. So in the end, we had a combination of drought and a heat wave. It was a more serious situation, more severe than that of 1976 .”
Storms and fires also ravaged territories in France. Firefighters are also always on alert to counter the risk of fire.
The four risks affecting Western Europe in the context of climate change are water scarcity, floods, heat waves and problems with agricultural yields. They were all illustrated this summer.
Towards individual and collective awareness?
Many French people were individually affected this summer by these climatic events. For Françoise Vimeux, this generates awareness and constitutes the meager positive side of the situation. She explains that this also allows specialists to speak to the media: “Once people are aware of the situation, understand the mechanisms in the world and the state of our scientific knowledge, I think it is also easier for them to take charge of a reflection. And then to say to yourself: ‘So finally, what do we do?'”
While there is a lot of talk in the media about the ban on private jets, about the special authorization, at the time of water restrictions, to water golf courses, Françoise Vimeux says: “Structural changes and the metamorphosis of our economy and our society will not happen without social justice.”
What is true on the scale of France is also true on a global scale, according to the climatologist: “We have 10% of the richest in the world who are responsible for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. And we know that the richest developed countries are historically responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So there, we are really touching something which, in my opinion, is essential for everyone to adhere to the changes which are going to be difficult.
For Clément Sénéchal, Climate spokesperson for Greenpeace France, “it’s necessary organize sobriety to ensure that it does not rhyme with precariousness. The question is where to start. And so we must start with those who have the most means. And luckily, they happen to be the ones that pollute the most.”
According to him, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced in the sectors that create the most. It details: “In France, it’s first and foremost the transport sector, so we have to decarbonize transport. And that’s why the debate on air transport and aviation is essential today. Then there’s the agriculture sector, which not only emits a lot of emissions, but also emits all kinds of chemical pollution and, moreover, consumes a lot of water. massive thermal renovation of housing.”
To find out more, listen to the show in its entirety…