Europe’s Heat Wave Breaks UK Temperature Records and Drives Wildfires

LONDON – For the first time on record, Britain hit temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius – 104 Fahrenheit – on Tuesday, as a powerful heat wave moved north-west, leaving massive wildfires, lives lost and homes evacuated across Europe. Equipped to handle the new reality of extreme weather.

As the heat moved from Greece to Scotland, the worst hit was in fire-ravaged France. More than 2,000 firefighters have burned nearly 80 square miles of dry forest in the country’s southwestern Gironde region, forcing the evacuation of more than 37,000 people over the past week.

Temperatures dropped on Monday, but firefighters battled high winds, dry conditions and charred trees sending flames into the air, causing the blaze to spread further.

“The weather conditions are crazy,” said Matthew Jomain, a spokesman for the state fire department. “It’s an explosive cocktail.”

Spain, Italy and Greece have battled massive wildfires, and in London, a series of grass fires raged around the capital on Tuesday afternoon, burning several homes – a grim sign that the damage could hit the English Channel.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared the city’s fire brigade “under pressure” and a “major incident”, allowing overstretched resources to focus on serious incidents.

The temperature in Paris reached 40.5 degrees Celsius or 104.9 Fahrenheit on Tuesday. In 1947 and 2019, the city recorded temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius, according to the country’s weather forecast.

Britain did not record a temperature of 100 degrees before 2003, and until Tuesday, the record was set at 38.7 degrees Celsius, or 101.7 in Cambridge in 2019. The country made a bit of meteorological history before noon, when the thermometer in Charlwood, a village in Surrey north of Gatwick Airport, reached 39.1 Celsius – and then left the new record behind.

At Heathrow Airport, the mercury hit 40.2, breaking a once-unthinkable record for the blustery, North Island – a few hours later Coningsby, a village in Lincolnshire, topped the record when it reached 40.3 degrees, or 104.5 Fahrenheit.

at least 34 websites broke the British record On Tuesday, the Met Office, National Weather Service, including six that reached at least 40 Celsius. Scotland beat their previous record. A reading of 32.9, at Charterhall 34.8 – 94.6 Fahrenheit.

Temperatures have continued a global trend in recent years, leapfrogging past records rather than breaking them in small increments.

Among Guinness Book-style delights in falling records was little recognition of the human cost of dangerous heat waves. London police say they have recovered a body from the River Thames and believe it is that of a 14-year-old boy who went missing while swimming on Monday.

As temperatures rise, so do concerns for nursing home residents. Residential care homes are not equipped to withstand high temperatures. Many are housed in old or converted buildings without air conditioning. This is a particularly complicated issue in Britain, where critics say the government’s mishandling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic has led to unnecessary deaths.

Professionals and workers said that greater measures should be taken to protect the elderly. People over the age of 75 – who live on their own or in a care home – are among the most vulnerable to serious health problems, according to the National Institute for Health Security.

“The last 48 hours have been unprecedented, so that’s a huge concern,” said Helen Weilbour, director of the Relatives and Residents Association, a charity for older people in care homes and their relatives. She said the organization’s helpline was flooded with calls last week.

For most people, however, a second day of abnormal heat usually means a second day of downtime. Some public transport, many offices and some schools are closed. The government has urged people to continue working from home – a call many echoed again on Tuesday – but to keep schools open.

Network Rail, which runs the country’s rail system, has issued a “do not travel” warning for trains traveling through areas covered by the Met Office’s “red” warning. The red zone covers the area from London in the north to Manchester and York. Several train companies have canceled all services north of the capital.

Trains are particularly affected by extreme heat because the infrastructure — the rail and overhead wires — is not built to withstand triple-digit temperatures. Strict speed limits are still in place. Most of London’s underground, which is not air-conditioned, has cut some service.

Britain’s heat set the backdrop for another big day in the intense and still volatile race to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. Tuesday’s fourth round of voting for conservative lawmakers narrowed the field to three contenders; With only two left, the winner is chosen by rank-and-file party members’ votes.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is on the cusp of advancing to the next round with 118 votes. Little-known junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt came second with 92 votes in an unexpectedly strong campaign, while Liz Truss, who is serving as foreign secretary, came third with 86 votes.

With no candidate making a fresh move and the three survivors close in votes, analysts said it was unlikely that two would emerge from the next round of voting on Wednesday. The new leader and prime minister will be announced in early September after the party’s vote.

There was a sense of uncertainty and broken temperature reports, with British politics and the weather simultaneously shifting into an uncharted landscape.

Rarely does a political campaign seem out of touch with everyday reality. Climate change barely featured in the debate between the candidates. As far as the candidates are concerned, They have only provided qualified support to Britain, with its goal of reaching “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“This shows the gap between politicians and the public,” said Tom Burke, chairman of E3G, an environmental think tank and former government adviser. “The recent series of climate events has validated science in the public mind, but politicians, especially on the right, don’t get that.”

Mr Burke said conservative candidates were promising smaller government, lower taxes and fewer regulations. Any effective climate policy requires strict regulations, state intervention and some high taxes.

After all, it’s not just Britain where climate policy is clashing with fears of the cost of living. In Washington, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, refused to agree on a comprehensive climate package with Democrats and the White House, citing inflation as a key factor.

“The cost of living crisis is an excuse for unemployment,” Mr Burke said.

Britain may be a microcosm of the climate crisis, but it is playing out across Europe in many ways.

In France, authorities responded to a week of dangerous conditions with warnings and contingency plans, hoping to avoid a repeat of the country’s worst death toll from a 2003 heat wave. An estimated 15,000 people died in August of that year, with the lack of air conditioning in retirement homes, shocking the public and sparking anger at the government, which it suspected was inadequately prepared.

In Greece, thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate their homes on Tuesday as wildfires burned through forested land north of Athens. Although temperatures were not unusually high, dry conditions and strong winds fueled dozens of wildfires, the largest in the Mount Pentelli region northeast of Athens.

In the Netherlands, workers sprinkled water on mechanical bridges on Amsterdam canals to prevent the steel from spreading, the Associated Press reported. This could block the bridges and block marine traffic.

Amidst all this swelling, relief has been promised: forecasters across Europe say the heat will ease out of control by midweek. Some showers were expected in Britain, and temperatures were forecast to drop, with much of the country staying below 80F on Wednesday.

Reporting contributed by Megan Specia And Eun Ward in London, Aurelian Braden And Constant Meheut in Paris, and King Kitsantonis in Athens.

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