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Unprecedented heatwave: Behind the ‘Indian’ summer in Europe, climate change and an African scorcher

The United Nations has issued an unusual safety advisory, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have warned of future heatwaves.

By: Agencies |
July 3, 2015 3:44:46 am
heatwave, heatwave warning, India summer, Europe climate change, climate change, high temperatures Europe, United Nations, World Health Organisation, WHO, World Meteorological Organisation, WMO, indian express, #explained Fountains and parks were favoured destinations across Britain as temperatures touched record highs on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Source: Reuters)

What lies behind the extraordinarily high temperatures experienced across Europe this week? Meteorologically, it is the result of the development of an area of high pressure above the Iberian Peninsula, which pushed hot winds north and east up to the southern Baltics, Belarus and western Ukraine, and as far north as southern Scandinavia.

Alongside have come the familiar warnings that the world’s climate has changed fundamentally — bringing with it extreme, and sometimes catastrophic, weather events.

The United Nations has issued an unusual safety advisory, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have warned of future heatwaves in places where they have never occurred before.

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“Climate change is not only likely to bring about changes in the frequency and duration of heatwaves in ‘core’ heatwave regions but also an alteration of the geographical distribution of heatwave disasters,” WMO and WHO have warned. They have also said that progressive urbanisation was part of the problem, because cities tended to be hotter than the countryside, and had the effect of putting vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the unwell at greater risk.

Spain and Portugal, in the line of a mass of hot air flowing north from Africa, reported temperatures of 44 degrees Celsius this week. Temperatures in Madrid touched 40 degrees for two days in a row, the highest for June since 1945. The Portuguese mainland, coming out of an uncommonly dry winter and spring, faced a severe summer drought.

On Wednesday, the temperature at London’s Heathrow airport was 36.7 degrees Celsius, a July record not matched anywhere in the UK, according to the Met Office. The highest temperatures climbed to in July was 36.5 degrees nine years ago in Wisley.

Paris saw its temperature rise to 39.7 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, the second highest reading since 1873, according to Météo-France.

Belgium and The Netherlands saw highs in the vicinity of 35 degrees Celsius. In southern France, temperatures crossed 40 degrees — making many famous holiday spots hotter than places in India this week.

In Britain, where there were reports of roads melting, trains running slower, and garbage not getting picked up because garbage vans were apparently overheating, many commuters outside the London subway, however, said they didn’t mind the heat. Some responded with a classic British quip: “Mustn’t complain.”

“I’m loving it. I can’t complain,” said Maggie Cloud, a university student who planned to relax in the park. “We pay so much money to go abroad to holidays, and now we have the weather here. It’s cheaper.”

In Spain, tourists looking for sun and beach time didn’t mind the heat either.

“Beautiful. We’re coping very well,” said Petroneo Zaldumbide, a 65-year-old Ecuadorean on holiday.

Things appeared changing towards the other extreme on Thursday in Britain, though, with rain and a huge storm in the northeast that knocked out power to thousands of homes.

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