Europe heatwave breaks more temperature records

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Much of Western Europe is facing record-breaking temperatures again, with the second heatwave in a month set to reach its peak on Thursday.

A red alert was issued in northern France – with Paris temperatures reaching a record-breaking 40.6C.

The UK recorded a record temperature for July of 36.9C and trains were ordered to run more slowly to stop rail tracks buckling in the heat.

The Netherlands on Thursday recorded its highest ever temperature.

“Climate change has increased the likelihood and severity of heatwave episodes across Europe,” the UK’s national weather service said.

Temperature expected

Authorities launched a red alert – the highest state of alert – in the Paris region and 19 other districts and said temperatures could eventually reach 42-43C in parts of the country.

French media said Wednesday night was “probably” the hottest ever recorded in France.

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands had already recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Wednesday – of 40.2C, 40.5C and 39.3C respectively. On Thursday temperatures in the Netherlands reached a record 39.4C.

Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute issued “code red” warnings across most of the country – warning people to take extra precautions during “extremely high temperatures”.

Impact on structures and humans

In France, officials warned people to avoid travelling and to work from home if possible. Children’s nurseries also been closed.

The chief architect responsible for restoring the Notre-Dame warned that the extreme heat could lead to the cathedral roof collapsing if the joints and masonry holding up the roof dry up.

French reports suggest five deaths might have been linked to the heatwave so far.

Comparisons have been drawn to a heatwave in August 2003, which contributed to almost 15,000 deaths in the country.

In parts of north Germany, rivers and lakes have dried up – with warnings that fish and mussels could be “severely threatened”.

In the Netherlands, hundreds of pigs died earlier this week after a ventilator at a farm failed. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a Eurostar train from Belgium to London broke down, trapping passengers.

Climate change to blame

While extreme weather events like heatwaves occur naturally, “research shows that with climate change they are likely to become more common, perhaps occurring as regularly as every other year”, the UK’s Met Office says.

Dr Peter Stott from the Met Office told BBC 5Live the latest heatwave is the result of both “weather and climate acting in concert”.

“What we have at the moment is this very warm stream of air, coming up from northern Africa, bringing with it unusually warm weather,” he said. “But without climate change we wouldn’t have hit the peaks that we’re hitting right now.”

The Met Office conducted a study last year that found that the UK was now 30 times more likely to experience heatwaves compared to the year 1750, because of “the higher concentration of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere”.

Records going back to the late 19th Century show that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about one degree since industrialisation.

A climatology institute in Potsdam, Germany, said Europe’s five hottest summers since 1500 were all recorded in the 21st Century.

Scientists have expressed concern that rapid warming linked to use of fossil fuels has serious implications for the stability of the planet’s climate.

 

Emmanuel Ukoh