Europe’s unprecedented, extreme heat wave has already claimed hundreds of lives in Portugal and Spain and shows no sign of stopping as it makes its way into the UK. The fierce heatwave is fueling wildfires across the continent, forcing thousands to flee their homes. How will Europe handle these scorching temperatures when homes were designed to retain heat and few have air conditioning?
USA TODAY: Heat wave in Europe: ‘National emergency’ in UK as historic temps forecast and wildfires rage
Claire Thornton; July 16, 2022
An ongoing heat wave is fueling wildfires, causing heat-related deaths and breaking records in Western Europe.
British authorities are issuing dire warnings, as temperatures may reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit in southern Britain, a region usually known for moderate summer heat, with July highs in the 70s. It’s the first time such a forecast has been made in the area.
The heat poses a serious health risk, as people will need to take precautions to avoid heat-related illness. In Britain, few homes, apartments, schools or small businesses have air conditioning, making residents particularly vulnerable.
Extreme heat is also endangering the environment and homes, with wildfires raging in Portugal, Spain and France.
British authorities have described it as a “national emergency” and southern Britain is under an “extreme” heat warning for the first time on record.
London Underground subway passengers are being advised not to travel Monday and Tuesday, because the heat is expected to affect rails and might cause delays, authorities said.
Already deadly heat; raging wildfires
In Spain, 237 deaths have occurred due to high temperatures this month, according to the country’s Carlos III Institute, which records temperature-related fatalities daily.
The heat has helped fuel raging wildfires in multiple countries:
- In France, firefighters struggled Saturday to contain a huge wildfire that raced across pine forests in the Bordeaux region for a fifth straight day.
- In Portugal, more than 160 people have been injured by wildfires and hundreds have been forced to evacuate. The pilot of a firefighting plane also died when his plane crashed.
- Spain is also battling several wildfires, including two that have burned about 18,200 acres and caused around 3,000 people to be evacuated.
How hot will it get in Britain, Portugal, Spain?
British authorities issued their first ever “red” warning for extreme heat, declaring a national emergency as forecasters predict record temperatures will put people, even those who are otherwise healthy, at risk of serious illness and death without proper precautions.
- In the U.K., the warning covers Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures in southeast Britain, home to London, may reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit . The British record is 101.7 degrees, set in 2019.
- Temperatures in the interior of the Portugal were forecast to hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit, and could reach as much as 120 degrees in coming days, according to AccuWeather.
- Sevilla, Spain has been a particularly hot spot, recording a temperature of 105 for nine consecutive days. Parts of the country could next reach 120, according to AccuWeather.
Leaders point to climate change
The chances of temperatures like those forecast are already 10 times higher than they would have been without the influence of human activity, said Nikos Christidis, a climate scientist with the U.K.’s Met Office.
“We hoped we wouldn’t get to this situation, but for the first time ever we are forecasting greater than 40°C (104°F) in the U.K.,” Christidis said. “In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the U.K. has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century.”
The U.K. Health Security Agency increased its own hot weather alert to the highest level, putting it to “national emergency.” The warning system was created in 2004, when concerns about climate change spurred authorities to develop their first plan to protect the public from severe heat.
Photo: Armando Franca, AP