Another stifling heat wave is on tap this week for large portions of Europe, including most of France, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Unlike the first heat wave, which ran from the end of June into early July, this event will probably also affect Scandinavia, which experienced extreme heat and a spate of related wildfires last year.
As of Monday morning Eastern time, Meteo France was predicting that Paris’s all-time highest temperature of 104.7 degrees (40.4 Celsius) will fall on Thursday. The record has stood since 1947. Computer model projections show the heat wave, known in French as la canicule, could last through Friday in Paris and much of the rest of France.
Hot, dry conditions are driving up the wildfire risk, particularly across Spain and Portugal, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe.
The early summer heat wave set a national all-time high temperature record for France. Meteo France certified a record of 115 degrees (46 Celsius), observed in Vérargues, in southern France, as the country’s hottest temperature to date.
That was the first time in modern history that the 45-degree Celsius threshold has been exceeded, the World Meteorological Organization stated in a news release.
Unlike the previous heat wave this summer, the latest one will also envelop the United Kingdom, where forecasters for the Met Office are warning that record-high temperatures could be set through Thursday, particularly in central and eastern England where the heat will last the longest.
On Tuesday, locations in southeastern England could hit 93 degrees (34 Celsius), including in London. By Thursday, the July high-temperature record of 98 degrees (36.7 Celsius), as well as the all-time U.K. temperature record of 101.3 degrees (38.5 Celsius), could be tied or exceeded, the Met Office warns.
The previous all-time U.K. high-temperature record was recorded in Faversham in 2003.
The new heat wave will also extend into other parts of Europe, including Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, among other countries.
Extreme heat events in areas where many lack air conditioning, such as in metro London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, represent a greater public health threat than similar events in areas with different infrastructure. However, heat waves occurring in midsummer, when people have become more acclimated to warmer weather, can have a less severe public health impact than that of early-season events.
Climate change is raising the odds and severity of such events
Climate science research shows that heat waves like this one are becoming more likely and more severe in many parts of the world, including Europe, as the overall climate warms because of human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels for energy.
For example, an analysis of the role that climate change may have played in the early-summer European heat event found that there has been “a very large increase” in the temperature of such heat waves. The report, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that a heat wave that intense is now occurring at least 10 times as frequently today as a century ago.
A groundbreaking climate study on a deadly European heat wave in 2003 found that human-caused climate change made that event twice as likely to occur as in a climate without a human-caused increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.
Studies since then have broadened the detection of the human fingerprint on extreme heat. For example, a particularly expansive study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2017 showed that climate change has heightened the chances for record heat across more than 80 percent of the surface area of the globe where sufficient weather data is available. (The study excluded parts of the developing world because of missing data.)