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Heat wave scorches western Europe

July 13, 2022

France and the Iberian peninsula are struggling to contain wildfires while the UK is bracing itself for temperatures to hit a record 40 degrees Celsius. Climate change has been cited as the cause for the intense heat.

A man rides his bike on a small road in Frankfurt, Germany, as the sun rises
Experts say such extreme weather events are becoming more frequent because of climate changeImage: Michael Probst/AP Photo/picture alliance

Temperatures are set to soar across Europe on Wednesday, with France, Britain, Portugal and Spain on high alert over wildfires and public health.

Spain's Health Ministry warned the "intense heat" could affect people's "vital functions" with heatstroke being a possible consequence. On Twitter, the ministry advised citizens to be on the lookout for the warning signs of heatstroke, such as a rapid heart rate, severe headaches or confusion.

Since Sunday, large parts of the Iberian Peninsula have seen temperatures surpassing 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) as firefighters have battled wildfires across Spain and Portugal.

Around 1,500 firefighters were mobilized to put out three wildfires raging for more than 48 hours in central and northern Portugal over the weekend as the country was hit by a heat wave that prompted the government to declare a "state of contingency."

A silhouette of a firefighter standing in the forest is pictured during a wildfire at Casais do Vento in Alvaiazere
Around 1,500 firefighters have been mobilized in Portugal as the country struggles to contain blazesImage: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands escaping wildfires in southern France

Southern France is currently battling a wildfire that has been raging since Tuesday afternoon, ripping through 800 hectares of pine trees near Bordeaux and forcing 150 residents to evacuate their homes, according to the local fire department.

Near the Dune of Pilat — Europe's tallest sand dune — another fire tore through 180 hectares of old pine trees, authorities said.

Some 6,000 campers near the dune had to be evacuated from campsites overnight as a precautionary measure, fire department official Lieutenant Colonel David Annotel told local news channel BFMTV.

High temperatures are also anticipated for other parts of western and central Europe in the coming days.

How is climate change hitting Europe?

UK may see record temperatures

Britain issued an "amber" alert — its second-highest warning level — to indicate that the extreme heat will have a "high impact" on daily life. Temperatures are forecast to hit 35° C (95° F) in the southeast of the country in the coming days.

In 2019, Britain's highest-ever temperature of 38.7° C was recorded in Cambridge. The UK's weather authority — the Met Office — is not ruling out temperatures exceeding that record.

"Weather forecast models are run hundreds of times to determine the most likely weather outcome," the Met Office’s Rebekah Sherwin said. "Some models have been producing maximum temperatures in excess of 40° C in parts of the UK over the coming weekend and beyond."

Germany bracing itself

Meanwhile, southwestern Germany is set to experience temperatures as high as 34° C on Wednesday.

But Germany's National Meteorological Service — the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) — is forecasting even higher temperatures for next week.

Heat waves and extreme weather have become more frequent in the 21st century due to climate change, with Germany suffering from deadly floods just a year ago.

Global warming made the July 2021 rainfall between 3% and 19% stronger, and 1.2 to nine times more likely, according to a study published by an international group of climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution.

jsi/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)