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June 2017: The Earliest European Summer Mega-heatwave of Reanalysis Period

Sánchez-Benítez A, García-Herrera R, Barriopedro D, Sousa PM, Trigo RM
AGU Publications, dx.doi.org/10.1002/2018GL077253

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Abstract

This paper examines the characteristics of the heatwave that affected western and central Europe in June 2017. Using a novel algorithm, we show that its extension, intensity, and persistence were comparable to those of other European mega-heatwaves, but it occurred earlier in the summer. The most affected area was Iberia, which experienced devastating forest fires with human casualties and the warmest temperatures of the reanalysis period from daily to seasonal scales. The peak of the mega-heatwave displayed an unprecedented warm air intrusion due to a record-breaking subtropical ridge with signatures closer to those of July and August. The atmospheric circulation was the main triggering factor of the event. However, thermodynamical changes of the last decades made a substantial contribution to the event, by increasing the likelihood of surpassing high-temperature thresholds. This episode could be a good example of a coming future, with high-summer mega-heatwaves occurring earlier.