We investigate the spatial extent of a statistically highly significant shift in atmospheric temperatures over Europe around 1987-1988 using a boot-strap change point algorithm. According to this algorithm, this change point (average warming of about one degree Celsius) is statistically highly significant (p > 99.9999%). The change point is consistently present in satellite and surface temperature measurements as well as temperature re-analyses and ocean heat content over most of Western Europe. We also find a connection with parts of the North Atlantic Ocean and eastern Asia. Although the time of change coincides with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) going from negative to positive, the consistent warmer temperatures throughout the decades after 1987-1988 does not coincide with a persistent shift of the NAO, as it returns to a neutral/negative in the 1990’s. Furthermore, the shift does not coincide with any other known mode of multidecadal internal climate variability. We argue that the notion of a shift is “spurious”, i.e. the result of a fast change in Europe from dimming to brightening combined with an accidental sequence of cold (negative NAO) and warm (positive) NAO years during this period. The “shift” could therefore be considered as a fingerprint of European brightening during the last few decades.