Dangerous, lingering heat wave threatens millions in Western Europe
(ORDO NEWS) — After the second warmest June on record, Western Europe is bracing for its second dangerous heat wave this summer.
Record temperatures have set in the UK, Portugal, Spain and France this week, with no relief in sight.
Hot conditions will continue to exacerbate the ongoing wildfires in southwestern Europe. The 14 states of Portugal and eastern Spain have a level 3 heat warning, the highest possible, until the end of the week.
Record heat wave in the UK
On Monday, the UK Met Office issued a “rare” amber-coloured extreme heat warning for Sunday 17 July as hot temperatures are expected this week across much of England and Wales.
“An extreme heat warning has been issued for most of the country and temperatures will remain consistently high throughout this week,” said Dr Agostinho Sousa, Head of Extreme Events and Health at the UK Health Security Agency.
The record high temperature in the UK is 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which could be exceeded as early as this weekend, according to the Met Office.
“Some models show maximum temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the UK over the coming weekend and beyond,” Met Office spokeswoman Rebeca Sherwin said.
As the country prepares, officials warn of the danger to vulnerable sections of the population.
“There are likely to be negative health effects for the entire population, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, which could lead to serious illness or life-threatening conditions,” the meteorological office said. “Significantly more people are likely to visit coastal areas, lakes and rivers, leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents.”
In the UK, road closures are also possible due to melting surfaces, as well as delays in rail and air travel in conditions of intense heat.
Spain, Portugal, France and Italy
Before the heat wave spreads to the UK, it will bring sweltering heat to Spain and Portugal, where “extreme” heat warnings, the highest levels, have been issued for 14 states in both countries. In Lisbon and Santarem, temperatures could reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) as early as Wednesday.
The heat wave is expected to last at least until the end of the week on the Spanish mainland, Spain’s national meteorological service said on Monday.
Not only the Iberian Peninsula suffers from the heat. France will also be hot until the end of the week, with temperatures reaching the mid-30s. The heat warning extends to the eastern regions of France, including Toulouse and Bordeaux.
The European Region is all too familiar with this. Record high temperatures were recorded in Europe last month, and June was the second warmest on record.
“Daytime maximum temperatures in Spain, France and Italy exceeded 40°C, and extreme heat exacerbated drought in the Po Basin,” European climate change service Copernicus said in a statement.
Much of Italy is also experiencing a summer heat wave. In Verona, temperatures will reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) by Friday.
Eleven people died on July 3 as a result of an ice avalanche on the Marmolada glacier in the Italian Alps. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi blamed the collapse on “deteriorating ecology and the climate.”
Last week, the Italian government declared a state of emergency for five northern Italian regions amid extreme drought.
“Most of us can enjoy hot weather when it hits, but it’s also important to stay healthy and find shade whenever possible when ultraviolet rays are at their strongest – between 11 am and 3 pm,” Dr. Souza said.
“If you have vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors, make sure they know how to protect themselves from warm weather.”
Threat of forest fires
Thirty-five forest fires in Portugal have so far injured 29 people, Portugal’s civil defense department said at a press conference on Saturday.
The European Commission has mobilized its firefighting fleet to help Portugal and, according to CNN Portugal, more than 80 municipalities in 10 districts are at maximum fire risk over the next few days.
The Ourém fire, located 80 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal, has destroyed nearly 5,000 acres of land since July 7. It is currently the largest in the region, with hundreds of firefighters working to contain it.
Heat will increase the risk of fires with progressive dryness. The Portuguese government has declared a “state of emergency” to step up emergency services ahead of heat waves. According to the European Forest Fire Information System, most of the country remains at “extreme” or “very extreme” fire danger during the week.
A high temperature of 48 degrees (118 degrees Fahrenheit) could be recorded in Coros, Santarem on Thursday, breaking Portugal’s historical record, according to the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).
The IPMA also said that more than 96 percent of the country is experiencing “severe” to “extreme” drought, the two highest levels, creating a dry environment that could easily start wildfires.
The critical fire season in Portugal lasts from 1 July to 30 September. During the extreme fire season, campfires, garbage heaps, fireworks, or bonfires of any kind are prohibited. Access to unauthorized persons may also be restricted to some forest areas.
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