Land‐atmosphere interactions exacerbated the drought and heatwave over northern Europe during summer 2018

Dirmeyer, Paul A. ORCID:; Balsamo, Gianpaolo ORCID:; Blyth, Eleanor M. ORCID:; Morrison, Ross ORCID:; Cooper, Hollie M. ORCID: 2021 Land‐atmosphere interactions exacerbated the drought and heatwave over northern Europe during summer 2018. AGU Advances, 2 (2), e2020AV000283. 16, pp.

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The 2018 drought and heatwave over northern Europe were exceptional, with unprecedented forest fires in Sweden, searing heat in Germany and water restrictions in England. Monthly, daily, and hourly data from ERA5, verified with in situ soil water content and surface flux measurements, are examined to investigate the subseasonal‐to‐seasonal progression of the event and the diurnal evolution of tropospheric profiles over Britain to quantify the anomalous land surface contribution to heat and drought. Data suggest the region entered an unprecedented condition of becoming a “hot spot” for land‐atmosphere coupling, which exacerbated the heatwave across much of northern Europe. Land‐atmosphere feedbacks were prompted by unusually low soil water over wide areas, which generated moisture limitations on surface latent heat fluxes, suppressing cloud formation, increasing surface net radiation, and driving temperatures higher during several multiweek episodes of extreme heat. We find consistent evidence in field data and reanalysis of a threshold of soil water content at most locations, below which surface fluxes and daily maximum temperatures become hypersensitive to declining soil water. Similar recent heatwaves over various parts of Europe in 2003, 2010, and 2019, combined with dire climate change projections, suggest such events could be on the increase. Land‐atmosphere feedbacks may play an increasingly important role in exacerbating extremes, but could also contribute to their predictability on subseasonal time scales.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2576-604X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: drought, Europe, heatwave, soil moisture
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 19 Apr 2021 15:36 +0 (UTC)

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