2003 Paris Heat Wave

Much has been made by the AGW community about the heat wave in France in 2003.  It was claimed to be prime facie evidence of global warming. 

New Scientist had this:

“At least 35,000 people died as a result of the record heatwave that scorched Europe in August 2003, says an environmental think tank. 

The Earth Policy Institute (EPI), based in Washington DC, warns that such deaths are likely to increase, as “even more extreme weather events lie ahead”.”

So was it?

This paper 3 years later put to rest any chance that 2003 was a trend with more to come:

Chase, T. N., K. Wolter, R. A. Pielke Sr., and I. Rasool, 2006. Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context? Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L23709, doi:10.1029/2006GL027470.

“our analysis does not support the contention that similar anomalies as seen in summer 2003 are unlikely to recur without invoking a non-stationary statistical regime with a higher average temperature and increased variability.”

They produced this graph:

So much for this occuring in all of Europe.

It’s worth having a look at what has happened since, and test if indeed 2003 was unpresidented and a sign of things to come.

Yearly summer TMax from 1945 -2003.  The 1957 to 1972 data is missing.

There is a clear increasing trend fom th 1970s to 2003, but after it’s dropping.  Notice also the high year in 1947 reaching 39.4C.    2003 looks to be a one-off (that happens every 60 years or so?)

Range of all years except 2003.  2003 is the thick black line.

The hot spell was clearly in the first two weeks of August.  2003 was mostly above the average.  The spike nature of the heatwave suggest a large high pressure warm frontal system.

Number of day’s above 30C.

So much for 2003 being the hottet summer on record.  1947 had ten more days over 30C than 2003.  Other years also had hot waves comperable to 2003.

It’s worth looking at 1947’s summer.

Compare each month for those two years for days over 30C:

Month 1947 2003
May 3  
June 6 3
July 13 8
August 10 14
September 4 1


1947 clearly beats 2003 for the hottest summer.

Was this the hottest heat wave all across the continent of Europe?

Here is NuernBerg, Germany:

It has a 2003 spike TMax high temp, but not as high as 1957 or 1983.  Notice also the tend is down since 1980.  2003 is definitely a rare event, almost looks like one every 30 odd years.

By the time you get out as far a Berlin, that 2003 heat wave did not happen.

2003 is not even close to a hot summer there, just an ordinary year.  Notice 2004 was one of the COOLEST summers since 1934.

It’s clear that despite the media hype, and continued use of the French 2003 hot spell as prime evidence of AGW it was nothing of the sort.  It was local to the area, and was a one-off.  1947 was actually hotter. 

There is no evidence this has anything to do with our emissions of CO2.

About J. Richard Wakefield

J. Richard Wakefield has published three fiction novels, Blinding White Flash, Blinding White Flash Invasion and The Barn. The sequel to The Barn, The Cunningham Arrests, is going to the publisher in 2015. He was a firefighter for 22 years in Toronto, and a professional computer programmer for 25 years. He lives with his wife, Dorothy, in Southwestern Ontario.
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