Heatwave comes at a price for mainland Europe

Severe storms interrupt the summer sun following intense heat in the region.

Madrid experienced temperatures above the average maximum of 30C since August 11 [Getty Images]
Madrid experienced temperatures above the average maximum of 30C since August 11 [Getty Images]

Some people do not like hot and sunny weather. That may well be for health reasons: hay fever sufferers and asthmatics tend to prefer cooler, cloudier weather. But for many Europeans an extended period of summer sun is an opportunity to get a tan, top up vitamin D levels, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Paris, France can expect an average maximum temperature of 23C in the second half of August. Temperatures on Sunday reached 27C, after having climbed as high as 36C the previous week.

Further south, Madrid, Spain has experienced temperatures above the average maximum of 30C since August 11.

In central Europe, the heat has been equally pronounced. Vienna, Austria has recorded above average temperatures since Tuesday of last week, with a maximum of 29C on Sunday.

Eastern Europe has also been on the receiving end of the fine weather. Kiev, Ukraine has had above average temperatures since August 19, with a maximum of 32C on Sunday.

It was King George II of England who is supposed to have characterised the summer as “three fine days and a thunderstorm”. That is often a good summary of a spell of fine weather in the UK, and it applies also in some other parts of Europe.

Parts of the mainland have seen some severe storms in recent days as extremely warm air near the surface has been overlain by cool, moist air associated with frontal systems. These have made inroads into the area of high pressure which had originally brought the settled weather.

Over the weekend severe storms developed over Jutland, Denmark. The storms then spread to Germany, producing some spectacular lightning displays. Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic were bearing the brunt of the storm activity on Monday.

This is the second significant heatwave of the summer. In mid-July both France and Spain saw extremely warm air feeding up from Africa, resulting in temperatures above 40C and as high as 45C in parts of Spain.

Heatwaves are a regular summer occurrence across Europe. The heatwave in August last year saw temperatures in excess of 40 degrees across large swaths of France and Spain.

The heatwave of 2010 was particularly badly felt in Ukraine, and in Russia which experienced its worst drought for 40 years. The country lost nine million hectares of crops and tens of thousands of people died as a national temperature record of 44C was set at Yashkul, which lies between the Black and Caspian Seas.

The 2003 European heatwave contributed to the warmest summer across the continent since 1540. The heat is said to have claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people.

There are no figures available as to the likely effect of the heatwaves of 2016, as mortality figures take some time to verify.

It looks as if the warm weather will continue, at least across central and southern parts of Europe for the next week to 10 days. By then we will be well into September, and the lowering sun angle should contribute to a general fall in temperatures across the continent.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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