Europe is facing a second heatwave this summer, just weeks after the hottest June on record, intensifying concern over climate change and the rise in extreme weather events.
Swathes of northwest Europe will struggle to remain cool as a blast of hot air from the Iberian peninsula will bear down on the U.K, Belgium and the Netherlands, sending temperatures to about 10 degrees Celsius above average. Both London and Paris could see July records broken on Thursday. France, Spain and Germany issued wildfire warnings due to the tinder-dry conditions.
“We’re about to see one of the most intense heatwaves in recent years,” Andreas Friedrich, a meteorologist at Deutscher Wetterdienst, Germany’s national forecaster, said by phone on Monday. “We have the highest wildfire warnings out for much of the country later this week.”
The heatwave and sunny conditions this week will also dictate where Europe gets a significant chunk of its electricity from because of the continent’s unprecedented shift to renewable energy. There is potential for high to very-high solar generation in both Germany and Spain this week, according to The Weather Co. On the flip side, the forecaster says that wind output will only be low to moderate.
- Northwest Europe forecast:
The July record for London of 36.7 degrees Celsius (98 Fahrenheit) is likely to be broken on Thursday, according to the nation’s Met Office. Meteo France is forecasting a high of 42 degrees that day in Paris. Electricite de France SA said it would halt two of its nuclear reactors at the Golfech plant in the south of the country because river water used to cool the plant will probably be too hot.
France’s agricultural minister on Monday said the government would delay tax payments from farmers to help them cope with spikes in hay prices expected as crops wither under hot temperatures. The heatwave follows a dry winter, with 73 of the nation’s 96 departments already under water restrictions. Of those, 26, and mostly in the rich agricultural center of the country, are listed as in “crisis.”
Around 800 firefighters in the northern Portuguese region of Castelo Branco were fighting large forest fires which ignited after an extended dry period. In Italy, as the peak tourist season approaches, the country is facing high humidity in the north, although temperatures will be cooler in the south along the coastline of the boot-shaped peninsula.
Europe’s June temperatures averaged more than 2 degrees Celsius above normal, according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service. The smoldering month saw crops affected, wildfires flaring and driving restrictions imposed across Europe.
Extreme weather is fueling debate in Europe, where protesters led by Greta Thunberg — a Swedish teenage activist — have taken to the streets and environmentalist parties are gaining traction in opinion polls. Ursula von der Leyen, president-elect of the European Commission, has called fighting climate change Europe’s “most pressing challenge.”
The U.K.’s all-time record temperature of 38.5 degrees Celsius set in Faversham in 2003 is also “in jeopardy” as temperatures are set to rise above 37 degrees on Thursday, a Met Office spokeswoman said. These kind of heatwaves are 30% more likely to happen than they were in the pre-industrial era, she said.
An atmospheric phenomena known as blocking ridges are behind the rising frequency and duration of heatwaves across swathes of Northwest Europe, according to climate scientists. The high pressure systems prevent rain-bearing Atlantic fronts from reaching land and suck in warm dry air from the south. One such pattern is in place over France’s Atlantic seaboard, sucking hot air up from Spain and leading to “extreme” above-average temperatures, according to weather forecaster Maxar.
Across the Atlantic, 53,000 New York residents suffered power cuts as the National Weather Service issued an intense heat warning from Oklahoma to Ohio and along the East Coast from Maine to South Carolina over the weekend. While power was restored to some residents, thousands of homes were still without power early Monday, AP reported. Temperatures will be about 80 Fahrenheit on Monday, compared with about 100 Fahrenheit on Sunday.
(Updates with details on Paris record from third paragraph.)
–With assistance from Joao Lima, Gregory Viscusi and Lorenzo Totaro.