Southwest Europe is experiencing firsthand what the climate crisis feels like this week. The temperatures reach well over 40 degrees and thus values that are dangerous for health. Longer, more intense heat waves are a feature of the steadily warming Earth. According to the IPCC status report from 2021, there is no doubt that humans are the cause.
A heat wave that would have occurred once every 50 years in the climate before the onset of industrialization occurs every ten years in today’s climate and is 1.2 degrees hotter. If the global temperature rises further to 2 degrees, there will statistically be such a heat wave every four years – and it will be almost three degrees hotter.
Spain as the oven of Europe
A high has been building up in Spain for days, with hot air from Africa. The air dries up due to the drop in high altitude, clouds dissolve and the strong June sun does its part to heat up the air on the Iberian Peninsula even further.
Spain is experiencing the worst heatwave in mid-June in at least 20 years, Ruben del Campo, spokeswoman for the Spanish Weather Service (Aemet) told El Pais newspaper. Official heat warnings currently apply to 15 of the 17 regions, including the otherwise cooler Catalonia.
Up to 43 degrees were measured in the shade on Sunday and Monday, the highest temperatures of this year in Europe. Even in heat-tested Spain, such values are not normal in the first half of June, but are about ten degrees above average. The heat will increase a bit in the coming days and is almost close to the Spanish June record, which is 45.2 degrees in Seville.
Call to “mindfulness”
The heatwave in Spain and France put the governments of both countries on red alert. The situation is “extremely worrying,” said Spanish Environment Minister Teresa Ribera on Tuesday. In view of the heat wave that was also expected there, the French government called for “mindfulness and solidarity” with weaker fellow citizens.
Over 40 degrees in France too
In France, after the hottest May in measurement history, the new heat wave has already started in the south of the country. 36.2 degrees were measured in Marseille on Monday. It has never been so hot here so early in the year, as the French weather service announced on Twitter. Also in Provence, 37.6 degrees were recorded in the municipality of Cuers, the highest temperature of the year in France so far.
But that’s just the beginning, because from Thursday there is a risk of over 40 degrees, the peak should be reached on Saturday. This brings back memories of the “century heat” of June 2019, when up to 46 degrees were measured. Not good news, because the country is already suffering from severe drought.
Many rivers in France have low water, including the Rhone. A problem for many a nuclear power plant that requires water for cooling. The French electricity company EDF announced that the output of the Saint-Alban nuclear power plant could be throttled again, as it was at the beginning of June.
Heat and drought also in Italy
Heat and drought are also a major problem in Italy. The water level of the Po, the country’s longest river and lifeline in the north, is lower than it has been for 70 years, according to the weather portal Ilmeteo.it. In agriculture in particular, there is a growing lack of water for irrigation.
The Italian meteorologists are expecting temperatures of up to 37 or 38 degrees in the next few days, and there is no sign of the drought easing. The situation is also aggravated because the little winter snow in the Alps has long since melted.
Even in England it will be temporarily hot, with London experiencing one of its rare days of over 30 degrees on Friday. Already on Saturday, at the latest on Sunday, the air will be cooler in the British Isles and it can rain heavily.
Records also possible in Germany
At the weekend, the heat from France will also really hit Central Europe, some calculations show 38 or 39 degrees for Germany. In mid-June, it has never been so hot in Germany since records began.
The June record is 39.6 degrees and was set on June 30, 2019 in Bernburg an der Saale. However, there is still some uncertainty as to how far the extreme heat will also reach Germany and Poland.
Hot weekend in Austria
According to the current status, Austria has not been spared from the heat wave either. In the next few days there will be a lot of sun, but for the time being only 30 degrees in places. At Corpus Christi on Thursday there are also some rain showers and thunderstorms, which can be quite heavy in places.
The right heat comes in this country on Saturday with up to 33 or 34 degrees in western Austria. Sunday night can cost some people sleep if it doesn’t drop below 20 degrees, as there is a risk of a tropical night in some regions.
On Sunday the heat is likely to increase, 35 degrees or even a little more are within the realm of possibility. This means that the hottest days of this year so far are imminent. How long the heat will last next week cannot yet be said with certainty. Luckily, it shouldn’t last too long.