Europe’s heat wave breaks UK temperature records and sparks wildfires

LONDON. For the first time in history, Britain was hit by temperatures below 40 degrees Celsius – 104 Fahrenheit – on Tuesday, as a ferocious heat wave moved northwest, leaving a trail of raging wildfires, dead and evacuated homes across frighteningly sick Europe. equipped to handle the new reality of extreme weather.

While the effects of the heat wave cascaded from Greece to Scotland, the worst damage was in France on fire. More than 2,000 firefighters fought the blaze that burned nearly 80 square miles of dry forest in the Gironde region in the country’s southwest, forcing more than 37,000 people to evacuate over the past week.

Temperatures dropped on Monday night, but firefighters’ efforts were thwarted by strong gusts of wind, dry conditions and scorched trees that scattered embers through the air, further spreading the blaze.

“Climatic conditions are crazy,” said Mathieu Jomain, a spokesman for the regional fire department. “This is an explosive cocktail.”

Spain, Italy and Greece also experienced major wildfires, and in London on Tuesday afternoon a series of grass fires broke out around the capital, burning several houses – an ominous sign that the devastation could turn the English Channel into a classic.

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

Temperatures in Paris reached 40.5 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, or 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the national weather forecaster, the city has recorded temperatures above 40 degrees only twice before, in 1947 and 2019.

The UK had never recorded a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius before 2003, and until Tuesday the record was 38.7 degrees Celsius, or 101.7 degrees Celsius set in Cambridge in 2019. a village in Surrey north of Gatwick Airport reached 39.1 Celsius and then quickly left this new record far behind.

At Heathrow Airport, the mercury reached 40.2, breaking a barrier that once seemed unimaginable for a temperate northern island – a record that was broken a few hours later when the temperature reached 40.3 degrees in the village of Coningsby in Lincolnshire, or 104.5 Fahrenheit.

Least 34 sites have broken the old British record on Tuesday, according to the Met Office, the national weather service, including at least six that reached 40 Celsius. Scotland broke their old record 32.9, with Charter Hall reading 34.8 – 94.6 Fahrenheit.

The heat continued global template in recent years jumping over records instead of breaking them down into tiny increments.

Among the Guinness-style hype about falling records was a grim acknowledgment of the human toll of the dangerous heat. London police said they found a body in the Thames and believe it to be the body of a 14-year-old boy who went missing while swimming on Monday.

As temperatures rise, so do nursing home residents’ fears. Residential nursing homes are not designed to work in extreme heat. Many of them are located in old or converted buildings without air conditioning. It’s a particularly serious problem in the UK, where critics say the government’s mismanagement of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic has led to unnecessary deaths.

Experts and staff said more action needs to be taken to protect the elderly. According to the country’s Health Security Agency, people over 75, whether living on their own or in a nursing home, are at increased risk of serious complications from heat.

“The last 48 hours have been unprecedented, so this is a major concern,” said Helen Wildbour, director of the Relatives and Residents Association, a national charity for the elderly in nursing homes and their families. She said the organization’s helpline had been inundated with calls over the past week.

However, for most people, the second day of extreme heat basically meant a second day of disruption. Some forms of public transport, many offices and some schools remained closed. The government urged people to continue working from home – a call many heeded again on Tuesday – but that schools remain open.

Network Rail, which operates the country’s rail system, has issued a “do not run” warning for trains that pass through areas covered by a “red” warning issued by the Met Office. The red zone covered an area stretching from London north to Manchester and York. Several rail companies have canceled all flights north of the capital.

Trains are especially affected by extreme heat because the infrastructure – rails and contact network – is not designed for triple-digit temperatures. Those still running were subject to severe speed limits. The London Underground, much of which is not air-conditioned, has also suspended some of its flights.

The British heatwave has created a hot backdrop for another big day in the intensifying, still unresolved race to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. The fourth round of voting by Conservative lawmakers on Tuesday narrowed the circle to three; when only two remain, the winner will be chosen from among them by a vote of the rank and file members of the party.

Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, garnered 118 votes, putting him on the cusp of moving on to the next stage. Penny Mordaunt, an obscure junior secretary of commerce with an unexpectedly vigorous campaign, came in second with 92 votes, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss came in third with 86 votes.

With neither candidate gaining new momentum and the three survivors relatively close to each other in terms of votes, analysts said it was impossible to predict which two candidates would emerge from Wednesday’s next round of voting. The new leader and prime minister will be announced after a party vote in early September.

It felt like with uncertainty and broken heat records, British politics and weather were simultaneously approaching uncharted territory.

Rarely has a political campaign seemed less tied to everyday reality. Climate change has hardly figured in the debates between the candidates. To the extent that this has happened, the candidates have offered only qualified support for Britain adhering to its goal of achieving “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“It shows a disconnect between politicians and the public,” said Tom Burke, chairman of E3G, an environmental think tank and former government adviser. “The recent string of weather events has confirmed science in the public mind, but politicians, especially those on the right, don’t get it.”

mr. Burke said the Conservative candidates are promising smaller government, lower taxes and fewer rules. Any effective climate policy will require tighter regulations, government intervention and higher taxes, he said.

The UK is, of course, not the only country where climate policy has faced fears of lowering the cost of living. In Washington, Sept. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, cited rising inflation as a key reason he refused to negotiate with other Democrats and the White House on a comprehensive climate change package.

“The cost of living crisis is really an excuse for inaction. Burke said.

The UK may be a microcosm of the climate crisis, but it is being waged in many other ways across Europe.

In France, authorities responded to dangerous conditions this week with warnings and contingency plans, hoping to avoid a repeat of the devastating death toll the country suffered during the 2003 heat wave. In August of that year, about 15,000 people died, including many elderly residents of nursing homes that did not have air conditioning, which shocked the public and angered the government, which it considered ill-prepared.

In Greece, thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate their homes on Tuesday as a wildfire engulfed forested areas north of Athens. Although the temperature was not unusually high, dry weather and strong winds set off dozens of forest fires, the largest of which occurred in the area of ​​Mount Penteli, northeast of Athens.

According to the Associated Press, in the Netherlands, workers sprayed water on mechanical drawbridges across Amsterdam’s canals to prevent expansion of the metal in them. This can block bridges, blocking maritime traffic.

Amid all the sweltering heat, there was a promise of relief, with weather forecasters across Europe saying the heat would ease by midweek. Rain was expected in the UK and temperatures were forecast to drop, staying below 80 degrees Fahrenheit across much of the country on Wednesday.

Report has been provided Megan Spesia as well as Yuan Ward In London, Aurélien Breeden in Paris, Constant Meeu in La Teste-de-Bouches, France, and Niki Kitsantonis in Athens.