At least 18 swimmers die during heatwave

UPDATE: A US student and an eight-year-old boy are among at least 18 swimmers to have died since Friday as bathers try to cool off in a heatwave which has brought highs of 36C to Germany.

At least 18 swimmers die during heatwave
Lifeguards try to rescue a man on the beach in Ückeritz in northern Germany on Sunday. Photo: DPA

At least seven people died in Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, four in Berlin and Brandenburg, three in North Rhine-Westphalia, two in Bavaria, one in Hesse and one in Lower Saxony. 

The 19-year-old US student died on Friday in the Bavarian Allgäu after falling into a waterfall. A 23-year-old friend tried in vain to pull her from the water, a police spokesman said on Saturday.

The American and three locals had wanted to swim to the Buchenegger waterfalls in Oberstaufen. But while climbing a five-metre high cliff, the 19-year-old slipped and fell into the water.

The 23-year-old jumped in after her, but couldn’t help and had to be rescued himself, according to police. Divers recovered the body of the woman, who is believed to be from Tacoma in the state of Washington.

Her family has been informed. One man from her hometown said: "We are a community in mourning for a wonderful teenager."

And in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania seven people drowned over the weekend while swimming.

A police spokesman in Rostock said that an eight-year-old boy was among the dead. He disappeared into the water while swimming on Sunday at Graal-Müritz on the Baltic coast. He died later in hospital in Rostock.

An 88-year-old man also died on Sunday swimming in a lake in Feldberger Seenlandschaft.

A husband and wife, both aged 59, died swimming off the beach in Rügen on Sunday. The couple from Bergen were found lifeless in the water.

And on Saturday a 46-year-old man from Hamburg who was on holiday at Hiddensee died in the Baltic Sea.

There were also deaths in Brandenburg. On Sunday the body of a 69-year-old man was recovered from the Havel river at Rathenow and on Saturday a 69-year-old died from heat failure while swimming in Grabowsee also in Brandenburg.  

According to the German Life Guard Service (DLRG) 250 people drowned in Germany last summer in the holiday season from June to mid-August.

Men over the age of 60 are at particular risk, the DLRG said.

The heatwave is set to end with storms and cooler temperatures hitting the country from Monday, according to state weather service DWD.

CLICK HERE for a more detailed forecast

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‘Clear indication of climate change’: Germany logs warmest year on record

Looking at data from 2,000 measuring systems around Germany, the German Weather Service (DWD) said that 2022 marked the warmest year on record through November.

'Clear indication of climate change': Germany logs warmest year on record

“Never since 1881 has the period from January to November in Germany been so warm as in 2022,” said DWD spokesman Uwe Kirsche in a statement on Wednesday.

The average temperature for the first eleven months of 2022 was 11.3C, according to the weather service in Offenbach. The previous high was set in 2020, at 11.1C for this period. 

The temperature average for autumn alone was 10.8 degrees – an entire 2C degrees higher than it was between 1961 to 1990, which is used by meteorologists around the globe as a point of reference. 

Clear indication of climate change

The period from January to October was already the warmest on record, with an average temperature of 11.8C. For meteorologists, autumn ends with November, whereas in calendar terms, it lasts until December 21st. 

It is “a clear indication of climate change;” that the warmest October months of the last 140 years all fall in this millennium, said DWD.

READ ALSO: ‘A glimpse into our climate future’: Germany logs warmest October on record

Autumn 2022 could have easily been mistaken for summer in some regions of Germany, it said. The mercury reached the highest in Kleve on the Lower Rhine on September 5th, where temperatures soared to a sizzling 32.3C.

weather Germany september

Beach goers in Westerland, Schleswig-Holstein on September 25th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Molter

Rainy regions

The mild weather extended into November, before temperatures took a dramatic dip in many parts of the country. 

In the Oberharz am Brocken, the mercury dropped all the way to -11.6C on November 20th, the nationwide low for this autumn.

READ ALSO: Germany to see first snowfall after mild November

But despite the early warm spells, autumn was also “slightly wetter than average,” according to DWD. An average of around 205 liters of precipitation per squar metre fell across Germany.

That was about twelve percent more than in the reference period from 1961 to 1990. Compared to 1991 to 2020, the increase was about eight percent.

The Black Forest and the Alps received the most rainfall. Utzenfeld in the southern Black Forest had the highest daily precipitation in Germany with 86 litres per square meter on October 14th. In contrast, it remained very dry in the northeast. 

However, there were also a fair few bright, sunny days for people to enjoy. According to DWD, the sun shone for a good 370 hours this autumn – almost 20 percent more than in the period from 1961 to 1990 and 15 percent more than in the period from 1991 to 2020.

The North German Lowlands saw the most sun, with residents there getting a solid 400 hours of sunshine over autumn. 

Temperatures to drop this week

Just in time for the start of the meteorological winter on December 1st, temperatures will drop significantly into the low negatives in many parts of the country.

On the weekend, there is a risk of permafrost in some regions of eastern Germany. The nights will also become increasingly frosty, with snow expected in many regions by the end of the week.

Roads are expected to turn icy, but with no major snowstorms, said DWD.

READ ALSO: Will Germany see more snow this winter?