Europe heatwave to feel like 'hell' as Sahara wind brings 40C temperatures, forecasters say

‘Hell is coming,’ says Spanish meteorologist, as France postpones school exams and Germany warns of forest fires

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 25 June 2019 19:28 BST
UK weather: The latest Met Office forecast

Britain is not the only country preparing for soaring temperatures this week, as a potentially dangerous heatwave set to shatter records spreads across Europe.

Temperatures are expected to climb above 40C in the hottest parts of France, Germany, Spain and Italy from Wednesday as hot winds from the Sahara blow in across the continent.

While one Spanish meteorologist warned the conditions would feel like “hell”, France’s weather agency Meteo issued an “orange” heat warning – the second-highest level of intensity – as French president Emmanuel Macron warned people to be “vigilant”.

In Paris, charities patrolled the streets to provide homeless people with water, while local authorities set up air-conditioned rooms where the public could seek shelter from the heat.

French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, deciding it was too hot to study, postponed national exams taken by school students until next week.

Fifa said it could implement heat precautions at the Women’s World Cup, which France is hosting, over the next few days. The measures include cooling breaks during matches and postponing games if the heat becomes too intense.

In Germany, temperatures above 40C are possible in some places on Wednesday, topping the country’s previous June record of 38.2C, set back in 1947.

The country’s emergency services urged the public to look out for young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, who are at particular risk in high temperatures.

The German newspaper Bild has urged its readers to have a siesta during the early afternoons, and to put their pyjamas in the freezer to keep cool at night.

Parts of northeastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires. Authorities in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which circles Berlin, say the risk is at the highest level in the next few days.

Tourists in Rome struggle in the heat (AFP/Getty)

In Spain, the AEMET weather service predicted temperatures could reach as high as 42C by Thursday and also warned there was an “extreme risk” of forest fires. The Spanish TV meteorologist Silvia Laplana said: “Hell is coming.”

France introduced its heat watch warning system after a long, deadly heatwave in August 2003 – estimated to have caused 15,000 heat-related deaths, many of older people left in city apartments and retirement homes without air conditioning.

Mr Macron said measures were now in place to help the most vulnerable cope. “As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. So we must be vigilant with them and have prevention measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible.”

Scientists said measurements show heatwaves in Europe are becoming more frequent, linking the intense temperatures to climate change.

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said “monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate.

“This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas.”

Dim Coumou, a scientist at the Free University of Amsterdam, said melting Arctic sea ice is also affecting atmospheric circulation, which in turn makes extreme heat more likely.

“Data analysis shows that the normally eastward travelling summer circulation of the northern hemisphere mid-latitudes has slowed down, including the jet stream,” he said. “This favours the build-up of hot and dry conditions over the continent, sometimes turning a few sunny days into dangerous heatwaves.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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