Climate change again became increasingly visible in the Netherlands last year. 2022 had a record amount of sunshine and was extremely dry, with 40 percent less rainfall than typical, the meteorological institute KNMI said in its annual State of the Climate report. Sea levels also continued to rise.
Worldwide, the earth was 1.2 degrees hotter last year than at the end of the 19th century. But global warming doesn’t happen equally quickly everywhere. Since the start of the previous century, the Netherlands has gotten 2.3 degrees warmer, the KNMI said.
“What was considered an exceptionally warm year in the Netherlands 100 years ago would now be exceptionally cold. For the world average, the difference is even stronger in relative terms: the warmest years then are a lot colder than the coldest years now. We are far beyond the bandwidth of our great-grandparents’ historical climate,” RTL Nieuws’s climate specialist Bart Verheggen explained.
In the Paris Climate Agreement, world leaders agreed to do everything they could to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The northern hemisphere was already 1.5 degrees warmer in 2020. “In the Netherlands, that happened around 2000,” the KNMI said. At the current trends, global warming will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius around 2033, and northern hemisphere warming will reach 2.0 degrees around 2037.
Last year was the sunniest year since the KNMI started keeping track of that in 1965. Solar radiation was 15 percent higher than the long-term average of the past 30 years. According to the KNMI, that is mainly due to fewer clouds. “There is more often a high-pressure area above Europe in spring and summer,” Verheggen said. “That can also result from climate change, for example, through changing wind patterns in the higher air layers.”
Another factor may be the cleaner air, according to the KNMI. The world has been working on reducing particulate matter in the air because it is harmful to health. “But the same tiny, suspended particles also reflect solar radiation and are necessary for cloud formation.”
“Both KNMI researcher Peter Siegmund and the independent climate researcher Leon Simons agree that this can play a role,” Verheggen said. “The extent to which both processes contribute to the extra solar radiation – more high-pressure areas on the one hand and less particulate matter on the other – is difficult to determine.”
The increased solar radiation also increases the risk of drought, which happened in 2022. In the summer, the amount of precipitation nationwide was, on average, 40 percent less than typical. Combined with the strong evaporation due to the many sunshine hours, the low rainfall led to a significant precipitation deficit in the summer half of the year.
And sea levels continue to rise faster and faster. “Until recently, the sea on the Dutch coast seemed to be evading this global trend. But since the seas and oceans are connected, the local sea level can’t stay too out of step with the world average,” Verheggen said. “By filtering out the effect of the wind from the measurement, the KNMI uncovered the underlying trend, which shows the inescapable: the sea level is also rising faster on our coast.”