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More than 40 million Americans are under heat alerts heading into this week, with forecasts in several regions nearing or exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit. In some parts of the country, meteorologists predict the heat wave will bring highs more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
A severe heat wave is also pummeling parts of northern and western Europe. In fact, ahead of Monday’s scorching temperatures, the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UK Met Office) issued its first-ever red extreme heat warning for parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England.
Although the predicted highs are lower than those in the U.S., these areas are simply not “built” for these conditions and Europe is in the midst of a crisis. In today’s Briefing, we’re rounding up some of the key things you need to know about the European heat wave.
If you are not from the U.K. or haven’t had the opportunity to spend time there in July, you may be unfamiliar with typical conditions. In the U.K., July temperatures average around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C). Monday they soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 C), 30 degrees higher than usual. There are concerns that within the coming days, temperatures could rise even further, and unfortunately, much of the U.K.’s infrastructure is already being pushed to its limits.
The U.K. has never had much of a need for air conditioning as a result, homes and businesses are sweltering. Officials cautioned the public that there is a “risk to life,” and warned of the potential for thousands of heat-related deaths. In 2021, heat waves killed around 1,600 people in the U.K., according to The Mirror, and temperatures were not as severe as they are this week.
Euronews reported that the London Luton airport was temporarily shut down due to portions of the runway melting. Flights that were headed there were redirected, and according to the report:
“On one flight from Catania in Sicily, passengers were told by the captain mid-air that they could not land at Luton because parts of the runway had effectively melted.”
London’s Hammersmith Bridge is undergoing repairs stemming from heat wave-related damage that it suffered in 2020 when temperatures led the cracks in the bridge’s cast iron to expand. In order to prevent its support chains from becoming too warm and comprising the bridge’s structural integrity, the bridge has been covered in giant pieces of foil.
Railway speed restrictions were put into place in an effort to keep the tracks from getting too hot and buckling. Most trains were slowed from 100-120 mph to 90 mph, although some travelers were advised that trains could be moving as slow as 20 mph.
Last week, we mentioned that Spain and Portugal were also preparing for this week’s heat and last Thursday, temperatures in Portugal reached 116F. More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat they have experienced in recent days and there are fears that highs could approach 120F this week.
More than 30 wildfires throughout Spain have forced the evacuations of thousands of residents and charred more than 85 square miles of forest and scrub. Two deaths have resulted from a blaze in the Sierra de la Culebra mountain range; one victim was a sheep farmer and the other a firefighter.
“Climate change kills,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Monday during a visit to the Extremadura region, the site of three major blazes. “It kills people, it kills our ecosystems and biodiversity.”
Major cities in Western France saw new records on Monday, and in Cazaux, temperatures reached 108.3F, the hottest since its weather station first opened in 1921.
In recent days, more than 31,000 people have been forced to flee from wildfires in the Gironde region, a popular tourist area where over 34,000 acres of land have been destroyed by fires since last week. As of Monday, there were nine planes filling up on seawater and dropping it on the flames and nearly 2000 firefighters were battling day and night.
“The fire is literally exploding,” said Marc Vermeulen, the regional fire service chief who described tree trunks shattering as flames consumed them, sending burning embers into the air and further spreading the blazes. “We’re facing extreme and exceptional circumstances.”
The severe heat waves being experienced now will only become more common as global temperatures continue to rise, making it essential that we all do our part to be more sustainable. This means making changes in our everyday lives and the way we do business.
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