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Barely three weeks ago, Western Europe was hit by an historic wave of extreme temperatures and all records were broken in the UK. Now a new heatwave is building across the continent, with warnings and more records in jeopardy.
High temperatures of 18 to 27 degrees (10 to 15 degrees Celsius) above normal are expected across much of France and southern parts of England by Thursday – with highs in the 90s (above 32 degrees Celsius) rather than the 70s (above 21 degrees Celsius). .
Amber warnings, the second highest level, have been issued by the UK Met Office in southern parts of England.
In mid-July, the Met Office issued its first red warning for “extreme” heat, with more than 40 weather stations beating the UK’s previous record of 101.7 degrees (38.7 degrees Celsius). Several stations even climbed to 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius), a feat made 10 times more likely due to human-caused climate change.
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Much of western and north-western Europe will be affected by the upcoming heatwave, with the risk of wildfires accompanying rising temperatures. It follows Europe’s sixth warmest July since records began.
The heat is being driven by a high-pressure ridge colloquially known as a heat dome, which will be parked directly over the UK from Tuesday night to Wednesday. Not only does it bring hot, sinking air, but it also deflects any inclement weather – making for incessant sunshine.
Temperatures in the UK are expected to peak Friday through Saturday before easing next week. Highs are generally between 85 and 95 degrees (29 to 35 degrees Celsius), although some locations can hit 96 or 97 (35.5 to 36 degrees Celsius). The century mark is unlikely to be reached anywhere.
A Level 3 of 4 heatwave action alert was issued by health officials, who urged residents to “look out for others, especially the elderly, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions”. Officials also recommended that the public limit alcohol consumption.
The Met Office forecasts that London will see highs in the upper 80s to near 90 (30 to 32 degrees Celsius) from Thursday to Sunday. Rainy weather will arrive to start the work week. The average high temperature in early August in London is closer to the low 70’s (low 20’s Celsius).
Met Éireann, Ireland’s equivalent of the US National Weather Service, also issued a weather alert for the country, warning of “heat stress, particularly for the vulnerable demographic” alongside a high UV index. It is worth noting that relatively few residents have air conditioning installed in their homes.
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Eighteen departments in France are also under orange heat alert and Météo France is calling for temperatures in the south-western parts of the country to reach 97 to 102 degrees (36 to 39 degrees Celsius), with an isolated reading of 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) not unlikely.
Paris is expected to hit 93 on Wednesday, 92 on Thursday and 94 on Friday.
In Spain that had its hottest July on record, an orange heat warning is in effect south of Madrid – where the maximum temperature could approach 104 degrees, while many other areas are under yellow warnings. However, the core of the heat dome is to remain further north in Western Europe.
The heat is being exacerbated by the ongoing severe drought affecting many parts of western Europe.
According to climate historian Maximiliano Herrera, some parts of England, including London, were record-breakingly dry. He tweeted that the city saw “virtually no rain” in July, with less than a millimeter recorded. July usually receives about 45 millimeters of rainfall, with an average of 8 rainy days per month.
July 2022 in the UK had an average temperature of 16.6°C, +1.3°C above the 1991-2020 normal. Parts of England were record-breakingly dry, including London, where there was virtually no rain (less than 1mm). Only Northern Scotland had near normal conditions. Maps from UK Met Office. pic.twitter.com/gklXW8VvsW
– Extreme temperatures around the world (@extremetemps) August 8, 2022
The Met Office reported 13 counties across southern and eastern England recorded the driest July on record.
There are concerns that the hot, dry atmosphere combined with parched pre-conditions could increase the risk of wildfire. The Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service wrote that the fire risk is “now very high to exceptional” and that firefighters have been particularly busy over the past weekend. They urged people participating in outdoor recreational activities to avoid campfires and bonfires.
#EFFIS Fire hazard forecast for August 9th
🔥Very extreme danger in some areas predicted by 🇪🇸🇵🇹🇧🇬 🇫🇷🇬🇷& 🇹🇷
🔥Extreme danger remains partially predicted by:
More at 👇https://t.co/2PjdHyXOpI pic.twitter.com/wehXjqwACO
— Copernicus EMS (@CopernicusEMS) August 9, 2022
France is also suffering from an exceptional drought, one of the worst on record, according to Météo France. Rainfall was the country’s lowest in July, falling 85 percent below normal.
Nearly 40,000 residents in France had to be evacuated from wildfires in the third week of July, with similar blazes raging in Spain and Greece.
The very dry conditions again create a very high fire hazard, especially in southern France.
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While the heat core will be over southern England and France from Thursday through Sunday, above-average temperatures are also swelling from the Netherlands to southern Scandinavia. The heat will retreat from western Europe early next week and move towards eastern Europe.
It is well known that human-induced climate change is increasing the severity, duration and frequency of extreme heat events. Adding to the extremely rare heat that warmed Britain last month, an event of similar magnitude brought record-breaking temperatures in late July 2019, including a high of 109 degrees in Paris.
Jason Samenow contributed to this report.