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For a third straight day, a ferocious heat wave is baking large parts of Europe, and the exceptionally high temperatures are making history. On Friday, the town of Gallargues-le-Montueux in southern France hit 114.6 degrees (45.9 Celsius), the hottest temperature ever recorded in the country.
The scorching temperature easily surpassed, by more than 3 degrees, the previous record of 111.4 degrees (44.1 Celsius) set in the southern town of Conqueyrac in France’s historic 2003 heat wave, which was blamed for 15,000 deaths.
In Spain, where temperatures rose above 104 degrees (40 C) Thursday, intense wildfires erupted in its Catalonia region, charring 16,000 acres, according to the BBC. CNN reported one blaze began when “manure self-ignited."
It’s not just daytime temperatures that have been exceptionally warm. Temperatures at night have also been record-setting, presenting a dangerous situation for those without access to air-conditioning.
Météo-France tweeted that several locations had observed their warmest low temperatures ever recorded in any month Thursday morning, remaining above 75 degrees (24 Celsius).
Several other countries could challenge long-standing heat records into the weekend.
From Spain to Poland, temperatures are forecast to be 20 to 30 degrees (11 to 17 Celsius) above normal through Saturday. Actual temperatures should surge to at least 95 to 105 degrees (35 to 40 Celsius) over a sprawling area.
The highest temperatures compared to normal shift from western Europe Friday to central Europe on Saturday.
Madrid topped 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celsius) Friday afternoon and high temperatures were predicted to top the century mark through the weekend, perhaps approaching 105 (40.6 Celsius) Saturday, its highest temperature on record.
In Italy, Florence, Rome and Turin were under the country’s highest heat alert level, the Associated Press reported.
The heat wave commenced Wednesday, when numerous June heat milestones were set:
France’s meteorological agency, Météo-France, tweeted that the country’s average high of 94.8 degrees (34.9 Celsius) was its highest recorded in June. The low temperature in Nice, on the French Riviera, was 78.8 degrees (26 Celsius) Wednesday, the warmest ever recorded in June.
In Germany, a weather station in Berlin soared to 101.5 degrees (38.6 Celsius) Wednesday afternoon, becoming the highest temperature recorded in the country during June.
A main cause for the massive early-season heat wave is a pair of powerful high-pressure systems. One is near Greenland, and the other is over north-central Europe. As they become linked and flex over coming days, forming a massive heat dome, they’ll also act to block a low-pressure system to their south, which would draw cooler air over Europe.
“Europe is currently under historically strong upper ridge,” Mika Rantanen, a meteorologist in Finland, tweeted Wednesday. An upper ridge is the technical term for this extensive zone of high pressure or heat dome.
The upper-level ridge is a double-edged sword. It suppresses cloud cover, allowing the sun to bake the land surface, and its circulation can draw even more heat into affected areas.
In this instance, the main heat feed is known as the “Spanish plume,” sometimes also referred to as the “Sahara plume.” The hot air plume, sourced from deserts in Spain and the Sahara, is surging through much of Europe. The result is excessive heat, and severe thunderstorms at times in some places.
Although this heat wave is set to peak Friday (in western Europe) and Saturday (in central Europe), it will probably stay hot through the weekend especially in the south. Any notably cooler air holds off until next week, and it may primarily target northern Europe as the general hot pattern holds in place to the south.
Jason Samenow is The Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association. Follow