Air temperature at a height of two metres for 2021, shown relative to its 1991–2020 average. Source: ERA5. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF.


On the 10th January 2022, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service declared that, globally, the last seven years were the “seven warmest on record by a clear margin”. The summer of 2021 was Europe’s warmest on record, despite weather extremes including heatwaves in the Mediterranean region and floods in central Europe. Global atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise last year, with carbon dioxide and methane reaching record levels. However the EU Climate Change Service did confirm that the trend since 2003 of decreasing global carbon emissions from wildfires is continuing. 

Five of the most important statistics from the press release:

  1. 2021 was the 5th warmest year on record, across the globe.
  2. The 10 warmest years recorded in Europe have all taken place since 2000, with the 7 warmest years being those between 2014-2020. 
  3. In 2021, the European record for maximum temperature was broken in Sicily. A temperature of 48.8°C was reported, 0.8°C above the previous record. (The record still needs to be officially confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation). 
  4. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise in 2021. Carbon dioxide levels reached an annual global record of approximately 414 ppm, with methane rising to a new annual record of approximately 1876 ppb.
  5. Carbon emissions from wildfires worldwide in 2021 totalled at 1850 megatonnes, slightly higher than last year. This increase was partly due to the wildfires in Siberia.  

What is the Copernicus Climate Change Service (CS3)?

The C3S is the EU’s Climate Change Service. It is one of six information services provided by the Copernicus Earth Observation Programme of the European Union. C3S provides reliable climate information through the Climate Data Store (CDS) on a range of topics including past, present and future climates in Europe and the rest of the world. C3S also offers advice regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, enabling easier adoption by business and policymakers. C3S supplies open-access data based on the most up to date climate science, and is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. C3S works with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring System to generate data on greenhouse gas concentrations.

What is the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)?

The ECMWF implements C3S, on behalf of the EU. ECMWF gather seasonal forecasts and use their modelling techniques, supercomputers and satellite data to provide global numerical weather predictions. They deliver the data to C3S who input it into formats that researchers and the general public can use.

What is the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring System (CAMS)?

CAMS uses a network of satellites and low altitude measurement systems to enable analysis of atmospheric composition and provide forecasts. It observes the composition of the atmosphere from ground level up to 17,000 feet and supplies forecasts for the next 96 hours.

Remarks from leaders at the Copernicus Unit

Mauro Facchini, Head of Earth Observation at the Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space, European Commission, remarked: “Europe’s commitment to respond to the Paris agreement can only be achieved through effective analysis of climate information. The Copernicus Climate Change Service provides an essential global resource through operational, high-quality information about the state of our climate that is instrumental for both climate mitigation and adaptation policies. The 2021 analysis … is a reminder of the continued increase in global temperatures and the urgent necessity to act.”

Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, observed: “the last seven years have been the seven warmest on record. These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work towards reducing net carbon emissions.”

Weather room ECMWF (3), from Copernicus Press Images.


A full record of the press release can be found here.

The EU Copernicus Climate Change Service will publish its annual European State of the Climate in April 2022, a full review of climate events in Europe in 2021.