European heatwave hits UK, Spain and France

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LONDON — This city wasn’t built for extreme heat. The London Underground, although a marvel of the Victorian era, is only partially air-conditioned. And the sweaty, sweaty ‘Tube’ put even the stiffest upper lips to the test on Friday, Britain’s hottest day of the year.

“You just smile and put up with it,” said Michael Finch, a 33-year-old lawyer who was pulling luggage, carrying a 5-liter water bottle and playing tap.

“Make sure you have water,” he advised, “and look forward to coming out the other side.”

Dangerous discomfort is being felt across much of western Europe this week as a punishing heat wave – powered by hot air blowing in from Africa – drives temperatures soaring.

Historic heat wave underway in Europe which will intensify this weekend

The thermometer at London Heathrow Airport exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). “Worcester will be hotter than Hawaii,” read one local headline.

At what Meteorological Bureau meteorologists have predicted could be the ‘hottest Royal Ascot on record’, racecourse officials relaxed their famous strict dress code, allowing men to remove their jackets and ties in all enclosures after the conclusion of the royal carriage procession. Many spectators chose to keep their ties on anyway.

In Spain, the National Meteorological Agency called him the first major heat wave in more than 40 years, while French authorities noted that it had never in recorded history exceeded 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) so early in June.

On Friday, dozens of weather stations in France recorded their hottest June temperatures on record, and two places observed their hottest day on record: the town of Pissos in southwestern France reached 107 degrees (41.7 Celsius), while Revel reached 104 degrees (40.2 degrees Celsius).

In the Spanish province of Valencia, temperatures on Wednesday and Friday were among the hottest June since 1950. Valencia airport on Friday set a June record of 102 degrees (39 degrees Celsius), beating the mark set in 2017.

One of the highest temperatures recorded so far in this heat wave occurred in Andújar, southern Spain, which reached 111.5 degrees (44.2 degrees Celsius) on Friday.

The heat wave is expected to ease in Britain and to some extent in Spain after Friday, but peak in France on Saturday. Germany, Poland and Austria are all expected to be unusually warm throughout the weekend. The heat is then expected to move to southern Europe early next week.

The Met Office said the temperatures were surprising for mid-June – although they have started to record higher temperatures in recent years.

“It’s the kind of thing that climatologists were warning about, and unfortunately it looks like it’s going to become more common,” said Alex Burkill, senior meteorologist.

In Spain, authorities have issued dozens of heat warnings and put almost the whole country under “extreme risk” of a forest fire. As firefighters try to contain the blazes already underway, thousands of people have been evacuated.

In southern Spain, hundreds of baby birds died after leaving their burning nests too soon. Scientists said the first heat wave in Spain coincided with hatching season for swifts, a protected species. Biologist Elena Moreno Portillo told The Guardian newspaper that birds tend to build closed nests in the cavities of buildings, which are often made of concrete or metal. “Then it becomes an oven and the chicks, which cannot fly yet, rush in because they cannot stand the temperature inside,” said Moreno Portillo. “They are literally being cooked.”

The extreme heat, coupled with the lack of rain, has reduced some of Europe’s major rivers to low levels. The Italian Po, the largest river in the country, is so low that shipwrecks are resurfacing. Authorities in northern Italy are increasingly concerned about the possibility of water shortages.

France issued its highest heat warning category for the western and southwestern regions on Friday.

“Be careful!,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter.

Scott Duncan, a meteorologist based in Scotland, tweeted that the event could be “one of the deepest heat waves in the history of France. An immense number of records are about to fall.

France and Spain have also just recorded their highest average May temperatures on record.

And people are really feeling the heat, because air conditioning – while becoming increasingly common – is still far more the exception than the norm in much of Europe.

After a heat wave killed 15,000 people in France in 2003, French nursing homes drew up emergency plans for weeks like this. Many of them are now equipped with air-conditioned rooms, additional ventilation or sprinklers that cool the building facades.

But both France and Germany It is reported that about 5% or less of residential homes are air-conditioned. On the other hand, more than 90 percent of people in the United States have access to air conditioning at home.

Some European countries have further discouraged people from setting their air conditioning too high this summer, in a bid to reduce electricity demand and reliance on Russian natural gas. The Italian “operating thermostat” orders schools and public buildings to consider 77 degrees (25 degrees Celsius) as the lowest level.

In Paris, city authorities have encouraged residents and tourists to use a dedicated website to find more than 900 “islands of freshness” which include city parks, cemeteries, swimming pools and museums. The website also indicates dedicated “chill roads” — for example, streets with lush trees — that connect these spaces. Other French cities rely on misting devices.

But climate scientists say more needs to be done as climate change makes periods of intense heat more frequent.

Hannah Cloke, a climatologist at the University of Reading, said Britain was ‘really unprepared’ for the extreme heat, with offices, homes and care homes ‘unbuilt to help keep people warm. cool people”.

“People don’t take it very seriously. They think about ice cream and have fun, but they don’t see the risk to vulnerable people,” she said. Hundreds of people in Britain die from heat waves every year.

To help keep cool, many Britons flocked to outdoor pools, ponds and fountains on Friday.

Sandra Greenidge, a 47-year-old babysitter, brought the toddler in her care to London’s Southbank Center cultural complex, where fountain jets shot water into the air, creating “rooms ” which appear and then quickly disappear.

“We don’t have the infrastructure for… this heat,” she said. “Given that, we are doing reasonably well. A lot of places have become dual-purpose, like galleries that offer this stuff to kids. »

The toddler squirmed out of his arms, grabbed his bucket, and walked back into the fountain. “We can be here for hours,” Greenidge said.

Noack reported from Paris and Livingston from Washington. Kasha Patel in Washington contributed to this report.

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