On Saturday, Spain, France, and other western European countries sweltered in a scorching June heat wave that triggered forest fires and raised fears that such early summer heat waves could become the norm.
Saturday’s weather was the apex of a June heat wave, which is in keeping with scientists’ forecasts that such events will now occur earlier in the year as a result of global warming.
Biarritz, one of the country’s most popular beach resorts, recorded its highest ever temperature of 41 degrees on Saturday, according to state forecaster Meteo France.
Hundreds of people queued outside aquatic leisure complexes in France, creating traffic jams as they saw water as the only way to escape the scorching heat.
Because bathing in the Seine was prohibited, burnt Parisians sought refuge in the city’s fountains.
On Saturday, temperatures in France could reach 42 degrees Celsius in some locations, according to Meteo France, which also noted that June records had already been broken in 11 areas on Friday.
According to Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France, “this is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France” since 1947.
He dubbed the weather a “marker of climate change” since “many monthly or perhaps all-time temperature records are anticipated to be beaten in various places.”
Forest rages Fire
According to local authorities, a fire sparked by the launching of an artillery shell during military training in the Var area of southern France was burning 200 hectares (495 acres) of vegetation.
“No one is in danger except the 2,500 sheep that are being evacuated and transported to safety,” stated local fire chief Olivier Pecot.
The fire started in the military camp in Canjeurs, which is the largest of its kind in Western Europe. The presence of unexploded ordnance in the abandoned region hampered firefighting efforts, but four Canadair planes were dispatched to water bomb the fires.
Farmers around the country are being forced to adjust. As temperatures in his tomato greenhouses reach a scorching 55 degrees C, Daniel Toffaloni, a 60-year-old farmer near Perpignan, now only works from “daybreak until 11.30am” and in the evening.
On Saturday, forest fires in Spain’s Sierra de la Culebra region destroyed approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land.
Several hundred individuals were forced to flee their homes as a result of the fires, and 14 communities were evacuated.
On Saturday morning, some residents were able to return, but regional authorities warned that the fire “remains active.”
Firefighters were still battling blazes in a number of other areas, including Catalonia woodlands.
On Saturday, temperatures in some regions of the country were anticipated to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), with highs of 43 degrees C expected in the north-eastern city of Zaragoza.
There have also been fires in Germany, where temperatures were predicted to hit 40 degrees Celsius on Saturday but only reached 36 degrees Celsius. By Friday evening, a fire in the Brandenburg region around Berlin had expanded to around 60 hectares.
Foretaste of the future
Authorities in the Netherlands predict that Saturday will be the hottest day of the year thus far.
On Friday, the UK experienced the hottest day of the year, with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees C in the early afternoon, according to meteorologists.
“I think people are just enjoying the heat right now,” Claire Moran, an editor in London, said. “But if it gets any hotter than this, which I believe it is supposed to, then that’s a concern.”
Water rationing has been announced in several cities in northern Italy, and the Lombardy region may declare a state of emergency as a record drought threatens harvests.
The leading agricultural association, Coldiretti, reported Saturday that dairy cows in Italy were producing 10% less milk.
Animals were drinking up to 140 litres of water per day, double their typical intake, and producing less owing to stress, it said, as temperatures greatly exceeded the cows’ “ideal climate” of 22-24 degrees C.
Experts cautioned that the extreme heat was a result of alarming climate change tendencies.
“Heatwaves are starting sooner as a result of climate change,” said Clare Nullis, a spokesman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.
“What we’re seeing today is, unfortunately, a foretaste of the future” if greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to grow, pushing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, she said.