Much of Europe was also experiencing blistering heat. In Cyprus, 48 people have died since Friday in one of the worst heatwaves in decades. Hundreds had to seek treatment for heat exhaustion in packed hospital wards. Temperatures there hit 43 degrees C (110 F) - the highest recorded in 40 years.
In Paris, tourists and residents alike flocked to the city's many water fountains to cool off as temperatures soared toward 40C. With few breezes in the French capital, pollution increased to danger levels causing police to urge motorists to leave their cars at home and take public transport.
Worldwide, monthly temperatures indicate that this year is going to the warmest for more than a century with every month of the year so far beating previous records.
Figures released yesterday by the US National Climate Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado have confirmed that the record-breaking temperatures monitored for each month have continued into the second half of 1998. Dr Tom Peterson, a meteorologist at the centre, said the figures, amassed from hundreds of weather stations around the world, indicate that 1998 will be an unprecedented year in terms of global warming. This is largely because of the El Nino, a Pacific Ocean current responsible for disturbing weather patterns around the globe.
''Part of this warming is the warmth that was left over from a very strong El Nino, which radiated heat into the atmosphere. But at the same time we've seen a warming trend since the late 1800s,'' Dr Peterson said.
So far the world is 0.25C warmer than it was in 1997, which was itself a record-breaking year. Scientists said that the increase, although small, is having a recognisable influence on weather around the world. Much of the southern parts of Britain experienced their warmest day of the year with temperatures soaring to 30C at Gatwick airport, one of the hottest spots in the south east.
Industry bosses warned employees not to use the late arrival of summer as an excuse for an unofficial holiday.
Ruth Lee, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: "There may well be people trying it on. Claiming to be sick because the sun is out is breaking a contract. If a lot of people take time off unofficially it may have an impact on the economy."
But Britain's tourist industry welcomed the sun, especially in the south west where cool, rainy weather has caused a fall in turnover. In the north of England it is a slightly different picture. Many areas have suffered a virtually sunless summer. Cumbrian Tourist Board operations director Ian Stephens said: "It's been a triple whammy - the strong pound has encouraged people to get good deals abroad, then there was the World Cup and the terrible weather."Reuse content