Europe heatwave: Temperatures soar as heat nears record levels

June temperature records threatened as Europe swelters in early summer.

Europe''s Heatwave

Tourists in Rome and Paris have scaled back their sightseeing in sweltering temperatures, dousing themselves at fountains and cooling down with ice cream as a heatwave continued in continental Europe.

“With this hot sun we try and keep to the cooler places,” said Fari, a Spanish tourist to the Italian capital, speaking by the Trevi fountain on Tuesday.

“From 8 o’clock we are out looking at Rome, and from midday we eat ice cream,” he added.

Southern France has also been particularly hot with the southern town of Carpentras breaking its temperature record. An average June provides a pleasant 28 degrees Celsius in Carpentras on any day.

Tuesday brought 38.9C, beating the standing record by 0.6C.

The unusually hot weather reached Poland on Monday, where Krakow recorded 32C, 10 degrees above average but not quite a June record. It stretched to Lithuania where Vilnius, the capital, measured 29C, eight above average.

The heat will build more during Thursday and Friday in France, Italy and Spain.

On Friday, extreme highs up to 43C are possible in southern France, northeast Spain and northern Italy. This would break June heat records.

According to reports, the high temperatures have already claimed the lives of three people. 

Orange alert 

French meteorological service Meteo-France has issued an orange alert, the second highest level of weather warning. 

“We could see temperatures in localised areas hit record highs,” Meteo France said on Monday. “This heatwave could be remarkable for how early it has come as well as its intensity.” 

The current conditions have brought memories in France of August 2003, when the temperatures hit as high as 44.1C causing the deaths of some 15,000 people.

In Spain, AEMET warned of an “extreme risk” of forest fires. 

While in Italy, at the coastal town of Eloro in Sicily, 41 cars were engulfed in flames on Monday after a fire broke out close to a car park where beachgoers had left their vehicles. 

In Germany, Berlin police have been asked to wear full summer uniforms, including long trousers and closed shoes, but may be allowed to remove their caps under the current circumstances, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Jet Stream

In what is now becoming a familiar story, the weather pattern is static again over Europe.

“This produces an extreme of conditions, dependent upon the time of year. We are now in early summer so the result is a building heatwave,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McElwee said.

The controlling force of the weather is the Jet Stream, a fast-flowing wind-river that loops around the northern hemisphere at a height of 10 kilometres.

“The forecast from climate change models and the actuality of the last few years has shown a change to this Jet Stream,” McElwee said.

“It now has much greater loops, draped over North America and Eurasia, whereas a tighter, straighter flow used to be the norm. A looped Jet Stream induces long-lasting, low-pressure circulations and high-pressure domes,” he added. 

Such a set-up has drawn air up from North Africa, in a southerly breeze, to cover Western Europe.  Over the coming days the heatwave will be increasingly confined to France, Italy and Spain as a cooler breeze flows across northern and central Europe.

According to scientists, heatwaves can become really dangerous when they take place in early summer. Europe’s 2003 heatwave resulted in the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies