Heat and drought were extreme in summer 2003 in Europe. Climatic data show that most extreme were maximum air temperatures in June and August; maps of these two months show a striking similarity in geographical range. Over wide regions, monthly mean temperatures were more than 4 ◦C above the long term mean values. The heat lasted from May to September in large parts of western and central Europe. The lack of precipitation was most severe in summer 2003 but precipitation was generally below normal from February 2003 until June 2004 (with the exception of two months). Sunshine duration was above normal, particularly in regions which usually have rainy and cloudy episodes in summer, and relative air humidity was below normal during the whole year of 2003. The drought experienced by the vegetation in summer 2003 was exacerbated by the length of the period with scarce precipitation and humidity, by the heat during the summer and by long sunshine duration.