A searing heat wave continues to scorch parts of Western Europe. Intense heat wave has hit northern Europe. A wildfire has broken out in northeastern Spain. France measured its highest-ever June temperature. This was much of Europe’s temperature-map of Thursday.
Record temperatures have begun in northern Europe this week. Experts have said heat waves are on the increase worldwide, further evidence of climate change.
The heat is expected to rise further in many European countries including Switzerland over the next few days, meteorologists warned.
On Wednesday, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic recorded their highest temperatures for June.
In a viral tweet, Silvia Laplana, a meteorologist in Spain, wrote “El infierno”, which translates to hell, “is coming”.
The mercury is forecast to approach 40.6 Celsius in Madrid on Friday, which would be its highest temperature ever recorded.
Meteorologists blame a weather pattern that is funneling hot air from the Sahara northward for scorching temperatures so early in the European summer. It is likely to last until the end of the week.
Media reports said:
Wildfire in Spain
Hundreds of firefighters struggled to contain a wildfire that continues to spread over heavily forested hills in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. Firefighters said Thursday that the blaze was not under control.
At least 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) have burned so far, around 50 people have been evacuated and five roads have been closed.
The regional government estimated that the fire could expand to 20,000 hectares.
In Spain, what is estimated to be the worst wildfire to hit the region in 20 years could have been sparked by improperly stored chicken manure that combusted in extreme temperatures at a farm in the village of Torre de l’Espanyol.
Firefighters said the steep terrain, winds, and temperatures nearing 40 degrees Celsius were making the blaze difficult to control.
In Spain, 11 provinces in the east and centre of the country are set to experience temperatures above 40C.
In parts of the north-east, they may reach 45C on Friday.
On Thursday, France’s weather service Meteo France said it recorded the country’s highest-ever temperature for the month of June, at 42 degrees Celsius in Grospierres, a village in the country’s southeast.
The highest temperature ever recorded in France was 44.1 degrees Celsius, which was measured in southern France during a 2003 heat wave that killed 15,000 people.
Meteo France said temperatures in parts of southern France could climb to between 42 and 45 degrees Celsius on Friday.
Meteo France said Thursday four administrative regions in the country’s south had been placed on red alert, with outdoor sports events and festivals to be postponed. Parents would be allowed to keep their children home from school.
The red alert is the first issued by French authorities for a dangerous heat wave, affecting the cities of Marseille, Nimes, Montpellier and Avignon. The whole of France is now on orange alert, the second-highest warning level.
French authorities have extended restrictions on vehicles, already imposed in Paris and Lyon, to Marseille and Strasbourg in an effort to curb air pollution.
The French electrical grid operator, RTE, said that electricity demand on Thursday neared the summer record seen two years ago, as people keep air conditioners running at full blast.
In Paris, fountains and sprinklers connected to hydrants have been set up. Some schools have delayed important exams and even closed.
In Toulouse, charities have been handing out water to homeless people.
The heat is also affecting France’s 72,000-strong prison population. François Bes, a prison monitor, told BFMTV that many detainees had described their cells as “ovens”.
“It’s impossible to create a draught because by definition prisoners can’t open the doors,” he was quoted as saying. One major prison near Paris, Fresnes, has decided to hose down the yard to cool it, BFMTV reported.
Temperatures are expected to top 40C in Italy, particularly in central and northern regions. Several cities including Rome, have issued the highest heat warnings.
The Italian Health Ministry said Thursday that seven cities including Florence, Rome and Turin, were at Italy’s highest heat warning level. On Friday, 16 cities in Italy will be under heat alerts.
On Thursday morning, the body of a 72-year-old homeless Romanian man was found near Milan’s central train station. Officials say the heat may have been a factor in his death.
The mercury is expected to climb to over 40 degrees Celsius in central Germany over the weekend.
On Wednesday, Coschen in Brandenburg peaked at 38.6C – a new German record for June.
However, Germany on Thursday enjoyed a reprieve from the extreme heat after record-breaking temperatures were recorded in parts of the country earlier in the week.
The lack of rain in much of Germany, particularly in the north and east, the site of much of Germany’s agriculture, could have disastrous consequences.
Forest fires are of particular concern for authorities in Germany, especially in the northeast. Local residents were asked to keep windows and doors closed in Lieberoser Heide — southeast of Berlin — while emergency services deal with a fire that broke out on Monday and spread to an area of about 10 hectares. It is expected to take a few days to put out.
On Tuesday, the mercury topped 36 degrees Celsius in areas like the Upper Rhine region, which includes parts of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse.
Wednesday was even hotter, especially in the Rhine-Main area of western and central Germany. Meteorologist Sabine Krüger from the German Weather Service (DWD) said the temperatures “will reach 39C and, in some places, even the 40C mark could be cracked.”
The previous hottest temperature on record on a June day was 38.5 degrees Celsius in Bühlertal in Baden-Württemberg in 1947.
Kitzingen in the southern state of Bavaria recorded 40.3 degrees Celsius — the highest ever in Germany — on both July 5 and August 7, 2015. Experts say it is possible that temperatures could be even higher this year.
German authorities have urged people to take necessary measures to avoid heat stroke, as temperatures above 37C could cause exhaustion or even cardiac failure. Experts say that elderly people, babies, and sick people are particularly at risk.
Temporary speed limits have been imposed on several autobahns because of the heat. Authorities fear that the temperatures could suddenly cause the asphalt to warp or break up.
In the eastern state of Brandenburg, police shared images of a man riding his moped in the nude (albeit wearing his helmet) when he was stopped by officers. Police quoted him as responding, “It’s pretty warm after all, isn’t it?” when challenged.
Record temperatures have begun in northern Europe this week.
Belgium is experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.
Poland and Czech Republic
Radzyn in Poland and Doksany in the Czech Republic also recorded new national highs, with temperatures hitting 38.2C and 38.9C respectively.
in the high-altitude Alps, temperatures topped 30C in places. Parts of Austria recorded their local all-time highest temperatures on Wednesday.
The Swiss cities of Geneva, Bern, and Zurich are all predicted to reach record temperatures of 39C or 40C.
While the UK will avoid the worst heat, parts of the country including London are expected to see temperatures top 30C on Saturday.
In the UK and Ireland, temperatures are not forecast to be as intense as in the south, but some spots should see readings into the 80s, which is considerably above normal for the time of year.
Sweden and Denmark
In southern Sweden and neighboring Denmark, some spots could approach 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
A high-pressure system
Part of the cause for the massive early-season heat wave is a pair of powerful high-pressure systems. One is near Greenland, and the other is over north-central Europe. As they become linked and flex over coming days, they’ll also act to block a low-pressure system to their south, which would draw cooler air over Europe.
Together, the zones of high pressure, combined with the cooler low-pressure zone offshore, will steer a “Spanish plume” over mainland Europe and the UK.
The hot air plume, sourced from deserts in Spain and the Sahara, will spill over France, Britain and Germany. The result can be a lot of falling records, and severe thunderstorms at times.
The broader weather regime behind this heat wave has connections to the stagnant high-pressure zone responsible for the big Greenland melt event in mid-June.
Both the Greenland melt and this heat wave are connected to a “blocking pattern” composed of big and lumbering high-pressure zones in the northern latitudes that can become stuck in place and lead to extreme weather. Such patterns may be becoming more common in a warming world.
While the current heat wave is set to peak later this week, warmer-than-normal conditions seem likely to persist for longer in much of western and central Europe. Any notably cooler air seems likely to remain centered near the Nordic states and into Asia for the time being.
Heat waves on the increase
Linking a single event to global warming is complicated.
While extreme weather events like heat waves occur naturally, experts say these will happen more often because of climate change.
Scientists say heat waves of this magnitude are on the increase in Europe, further evidence that the Earth’s climate is changing due to the burning of fossil fuel.
Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, said “monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate.”
“This increase in heat extremes is just as is predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas,” he added.
Records going back to the late 19th Century show that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about one degree since industrialization.
A climatology institute in Potsdam says Europe’s five hottest summers since 1500 have all been in the 21st Century.
Scientists are concerned that rapid warming linked to human use of fossil fuel has serious implications for the stability of the planet’s climate.
This early heat wave is the latest in a number of historic episodes of heat in recent years. Just last summer, the continent saw relentless record temperatures coupled with unusually dry conditions. As a result, drought and wildfires were rampant.
“The hottest summers since 1500 AD in Europe were: 2018, 2010, 2003, 2016, 2002,” wrote Rahmstorf.
Children sent home
In many countries, children were dismissed from class early or allowed to skip it entirely.
In France, final exams for students were delayed a week due to the heat wave.
Zoo animals across Europe were treated to special treats such as fruit icicles, buckets of water and swimming pools.
“Heat waves are silent killers,” tweeted Stefan Rahmstorf. “The 2003 European heat wave has caused about 70,000 fatalities. Last year’s hot summer in Germany has been estimated to have caused at least 1,000 excess deaths.”