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How Land-Atmosphere Interactions Magnified the Drought and Heatwave over Northern Europe during Summer 2018


During the summer of 2018, Northern Europe experienced a devastating heatwave and drought; with unprecedented forest fires in Sweden, excessive heat in Germany, and water restrictions in England, these events had far reaching economic and ecological impacts. The combined hot and dry conditions experienced in northern Europe are more typical of southern Europe, but research shows such conditions are projected to become more common in a changing climate. 

In a new Earth and Space Journal, authors Paul Dirmeyer, Dianpaolo Balsamo, Eleanor Blyth, Ross Morrison, and Hollie Cooper, analyzed environmental observations over Britain, and atmospheric and land surface analyses over Europe to examine the exceptional drought and heatwave that struck the region the summer of 2018. Results from the study suggest the region entered a state of positive feedback between the land and atmosphere, which then exacerbated the heatwave and drought conditions. It was found that the dry soils and vegetation led to reduced evaporation, increased heating of the surface, warming and drying of the atmosphere, and contributing to less cloud cover. 

In addition, similar recent heatwaves over various parts of Europe in 2003, 2010, and 2019, combined with climate change projections, suggest such events could be on the rise. As land-atmosphere feedbacks may play an increasingly important role in exacerbating extremes, it could also contribute to the predictability on subseasonal timescales. 

CPO is increasingly investing in this kind of explanatory work around extremes, which helps better understand the modeling, predictability, and behavior of these types of extreme events.

Read the full paper here


About MAPP

The Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program is a competitive research program in NOAA Research’s Climate Program Office. MAPP’s mission is to enhance the Nation’s and NOAA’s capability to understand, predict, and project variability and long-term changes in Earth’s system and mitigate human and economic impacts. To achieve its mission, MAPP supports foundational research, transition of research to applications, and engagement across other parts of NOAA, among partner agencies, and with the external research community. MAPP plays a crucial role in enabling national preparedness for extreme events like drought and longer-term climate changes. For more information, please visit


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