Climate change and global warming

Climate change can have both natural causes and be caused by humans. In the past, temperature fluctuations of a few degrees over several decades or centuries have always been of natural origin. Climate fluctuations are mostly caused by changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases and solar radiation.

Global warming in recent decades, however, has been caused to a considerable extent by human beings. Normally, a global temperature rise of two degrees lasts several thousand years. For such an increase, human beings did not even need a whole century. More drastic warming has become apparent in the last two decades alone.

Increase of temperatures by continents 1950 to 2022

If you want to observe rising or falling temperatures over a long period of time, you need weather stations that not only existed over the entire period, but also provided continuous data. Looking at the period from 1950 to today, only 180 of the more than 4,000 weather stations worldwide remain.

Thermometer These provide informative data from large parts of the world and show a general increase in air temperatures. Especially in the last 10 to 20 years, the temperature rose more strongly than in the previous decades. All 180 measuring stations provided continuous data during the entire observation period. Changes in these average values are therefore not due to the fact that individual stations failed for a longer period of time or new ones were added in particularly warm or cold regions. The 10-year average is given in each case.

In the regions of Central and South America, which are not shown, there were no weather stations that consistently provided corresponding values for the period under consideration.

North America

The graphs show the average daily temperatures. It can be seen quite clearly that there has been a sharp increase in temperatures worldwide since the 1980s. Particularly noticeable are the developments in Europe, North America and Asia, where there are considerable temperature increases. In the countries of Oceania, the temperature increase is strikingly strong, especially in the last few years. Antarctica is not listed here due to a lack of consistent data series.

Average temperatures

Europe8.0 °C7.7 °C7.8 °C7.8 °C8.4 °C8.9 °C9.0 °C9.2 °C
Asia15.6 °C15.8 °C15.7 °C15.7 °C16.3 °C16.5 °C16.8 °C16.9 °C
North America12.2 °C11.7 °C11.6 °C12.1 °C12.4 °C12.7 °C13.2 °C13.2 °C
Africa20.2 °C20.3 °C20.2 °C20.5 °C20.6 °C21.0 °C21.4 °C21.3 °C
Australia13.9 °C13.9 °C14.0 °C14.2 °C14.0 °C14.4 °C14.9 °C14.6 °C
Oceania23.3 °C23.2 °C23.2 °C23.4 °C23.7 °C23.9 °C23.9 °C24.3 °C

Weather extremes

Both the lowest temperatures at night and the highest temperatures of the day have risen noticeably over the past decades. It is not just the average values that have changed, but also the extreme values. On the basis of the media reports, one would perhaps assume that the weather extremes would be greater in both directions, with warm months becoming warmer and cold months even colder. However, this does not seem to be the case. While the warmest month in Europe between 1950 and 1960 still had an average temperature of 17.5°C, this maximum value has risen to around 18.8°C in recent years, i.e., just 1.3°C. On the other continents, the effects are even smaller.

Since this value is not a 10-year average, but the warmest month within 10 years, global warming does not seem to have too dramatic an effect, at least on temperature extremes.

Warmest months

Europe17.5 °C17.0 °C17.3 °C18.4 °C18.7 °C19.5 °C19.1 °C18.8 °C
Asia25.7 °C25.6 °C25.8 °C26.1 °C26.4 °C26.7 °C27.3 °C26.7 °C
North America23.9 °C23.5 °C23.5 °C24.0 °C24.1 °C24.7 °C24.8 °C24.8 °C
Africa22.2 °C22.6 °C22.1 °C22.3 °C22.7 °C23.2 °C23.8 °C23.4 °C
Australia21.1 °C21.6 °C22.0 °C22.7 °C21.1 °C21.8 °C23.6 °C21.6 °C
Oceania26.2 °C27.4 °C26.8 °C26.1 °C26.6 °C27.2 °C26.7 °C26.6 °C

Coldest months

The effect is more pronounced in the coldest months: Between 1950 and 1960, the month with the lowest average temperature in Europe was -5.4°C. In the last 32 years, on the other hand, there has not been a single month with less than -1.9°C. The average temperature in Europe has been the lowest between 1950 and 1960. So winters are actually becoming less severe. In North America, there has been an almost equally clear increase. Only in the less populated regions of the world such as Oceania do the coldest weather extremes remain virtually unchanged.

Europe-5.4 °C-4.3 °C-2.9 °C-4.1 °C-1.2 °C-0.4 °C-1.9 °C0.1 °C
Asia5.0 °C5.6 °C3.6 °C5.9 °C6.1 °C6.1 °C6.2 °C7.2 °C
North America-1.0 °C-2.1 °C-2.1 °C-1.7 °C-0.4 °C0.2 °C0.8 °C1.1 °C
Africa17.4 °C16.7 °C17.6 °C17.6 °C16.7 °C18.4 °C18.8 °C18.9 °C
Australia7.3 °C7.0 °C7.1 °C7.1 °C7.4 °C7.8 °C8.1 °C8.5 °C
Oceania20.6 °C20.4 °C20.5 °C20.5 °C20.8 °C21.0 °C20.9 °C21.8 °C

Data source: German Weather Service. Values edited, supplemented and averaged by continents.