High temperatures “baked” Europe in more days of “extreme heat stress” than its scientists have ever seen, the Guardian reports.

Pollutants trap heat by blanketing the atmosphere, contributing to rising temperatures in Europe last year at the highest or second highest levels ever recordedaccording to the EU land monitoring service Copernicus and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Europeans suffer from unprecedented heat during the day and are at high levels of stress from the uncomfortable heat at night. The death rate from hot weather has increased by 30% in Europe in two decadesaccording to the two organizations’ joint State of the Climate report.

“The cost of climate action may seem high,” noted WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulio, “but the cost of inaction is much higher.”

The report found that temperatures across Europe were above average for 11 months of 2023, including the warmest September on record.

The hot and dry weather sparked large fires that destroyed villages with their smoke choking distant cities. The flames that firefighters battled were particularly intense in drought-stricken southern countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Greece was hit by the biggest fire recorded in the EU, which burned 96,000 hectares of land, according to the report.

The heavy rainfall also led to deadly floods. Europe was about 7% wetter in 2023 than the three-decade average, the report found, with a third of its river network exceeding the “high” flood limit. One sixth reached “severe” levels.

“In 2023, Europe experienced the largest fire on record, one of the wettest years, severe marine heatwaves and widespread catastrophic flooding,” said Carlo Buotembo, director of the Copernicus climate change agency.

“Temperatures continue to rise, making our data even more vital in preparing for the effects of climate change,” he added.

The role of global warming in increasingly heavy rainfall is not always clear. Warmer air can hold more moisture, allowing for more extreme storms, but complex climate changes mean water isn’t always available for precipitation.

But for heatwaves, the connection is much stronger. The report did not provide figures for the number of heat deaths in 2023, but scientists have pegged the number in 2022 in 70,000 additional deaths.