UK set to record record temperatures as heatwave hits Europe

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PARIS — Britain is bracing for what could be its hottest day on record this week, as French authorities warned of a “thermal apocalypse” and emergency services across Europe faced with spreading forest fires and rising death tolls.

Heat records fell in several places on Monday, as Wales recorded a new all-time high and Ireland recorded its highest air temperature in more than a century. More records could fall as the heat continues on Tuesday, with Britain expecting temperatures of up to 106 degrees (41 degrees Celsius) – well above the record high of 101.7 degrees (38, 7 degrees Celsius) set in 2019. Temperatures hovered just below 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) in many parts of France on Monday, but are expected to exceed that threshold in Paris and elsewhere on Tuesday.

UK authorities have declared a national emergency and for the first time issued an ‘extreme red’ heat warning for much of Englandwhile the French meteorological service placed part of its Atlantic coast under highest possible alert level. Much of northern Italy, which is facing one of its worst droughts in decades, remained under a state of emergency.

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Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution researcher at the UK’s meteorological service, the Met Office, said this reflected scientists’ expectations that climate change was making episodes of extreme heat more frequent.

“The chances of seeing 40°C [104 Fahrenheit] days in the UK could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influence,” he said. said in a press release.

The human toll and logistical challenges of the extreme heat were becoming increasingly visible on Monday, with firefighting departments under strain, hospitals bracing for increased admissions and transportation, and office work and disrupted schools.

In Britain, planes have been hijacked from at least two airports, amid reports of “melted” runways and roads.

More than 15,000 people have been evacuated amid wildfires in France. The Home Office said it would deploy hundreds more firefighters to the hardest-hit areas, including popular beaches and resorts on the country’s west coast. In Spain, authorities in many places said available firefighting planes were already operating at full capacity.

“Full solidarity with firefighters and disaster victims”, wrote French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Twitter. His Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, on Sunday paid tribute on Twitter to a deceased rescuer.

Models of the Spanish public Carlos III Health Institute estimate that at least 350 people have died in the previous week due to the country’s heat – well above the weekly average of around 60 deaths, although in line with the impact of previous years’ heat spells . The institute reported more than 800 heat-related deaths last month, when similar scorching temperatures hit the country and other parts of Europe, with temperatures reaching between 104 and 110 degrees (40 to 43 degrees Celsius).

The number of deaths could still exceed estimates – it sometimes takes days or weeks before authorities have a clear understanding of the number of heat-related deaths, which are difficult to estimate in real time.

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Authorities have warned that the heat will deteriorate air quality in major urban population centers.

Hospital unions in France and other countries have warned that the heat is weighing down wards which have already faced a further rise in coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent weeks.

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a level 4 heat alert, its highest level, warning that illness and death could occur “among fit and healthy people”. Public health officials predicted that thousands of excess deaths could occur, although some skeptics saw it as hype. Conservative Party lawmaker John Hayes told the telegraph log that “it is not a brave new world but a loose new world where we live in a country where we are afraid of the heat”.

But Britain is not designed for extreme heat.

Very few houses are air-conditioned. Instead, homes have traditionally been built to retain heat. Maintenance crews were spreading sand on the highways to prevent the roads, yes, from melting.

Penny Endersby, the Met Office’s chief operating officer, called the forecast temperatures “absolutely unprecedented.”

She acknowledged that while many Britons typically enjoy a sunny warm spell, “it’s not that kind of weather”.

“Our lifestyles and our infrastructure are not suited to what’s to come,” Endersby said.

Extreme temperatures forced the diversion of flights from RAF Brize Norton Air Base and Luton Airport on Monday. The Royal Air Force said the diversion had “no impact on RAF operations”. The repairs have temporarily suspended all flights at Luton, one of the country’s busiest airports, after a “surface defect” was spotted on his trail. The airport has reopened later in the night.

In London, workers wrapped the historic Hammersmith Bridge over the River Thames in silver foil insulation to protect the cast iron spans from cracking.

Transport officials advised passengers to stay clear and ordered trains to slow down as maintenance crews were on the lookout for flexes and warps in the steel tracks.

Network Rail official Jake Kelly told BBC Radio on Monday morning the system was under “exceptional stress”.

“Our railroad is made up of many components, many of which are metal, which expand when heated,” Kelly said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned commuters to avoid all public transport, including the London Underground, “unless absolutely necessary”. The metro turns into a sauna on hot days. The system, parts of which date back to the Victorian era, has never experienced temperatures like those predicted.

In France, national rail operator SNCF has also urged travelers to pack bottled water and be prepared for delays.

This summer’s heat has reignited a debate about how to prepare citizens for the impact of climate change.

While environmental concerns over the use of air conditioning remain widespread in Europe, with up to 75% of all French people having no air conditioning, it is increasingly seen as a key tool to protect less vulnerable groups. more vulnerable.

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After a heatwave killed around 15,000 people in France in 2003, French nursing homes drew up emergency plans. Many of them are now equipped with air-conditioned rooms, additional ventilation or sprinklers that cool the building facades.

In Paris, city authorities have encouraged residents and tourists to use a dedicated website to find 900 “islands of freshness”, including city parks, cemeteries, swimming pools and museums. The website also indicates dedicated “chill roads” — for example, streets with lush trees — that connect these spaces. Some buildings use cold water pipes as a greener alternative to air conditioning.

Studies suggest such measures have lowered heat-related mortality since 2003, spurring more adaptation plans in cities like Paris. Over the next few years, the French capital wants to plant tens of thousands more trees, in the hope that they will help lower the air and surface temperatures of the cobbled squares and asphalt roads that trap the heat.

But as climate change progresses, the increasingly brutal heat islands building up in urban areas could pose risks that may go beyond conventional solutions – even today, the temperature difference between Paris and its greener surroundings can sometimes approach 18 degrees (10 Celsius). People living in poorer neighborhoods, who are more likely to live in unrenovated buildings and without easy access to green spaces, are particularly affected. Many elderly people who died in France’s recent heatwaves were at home, not in nursing homes.

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In rural areas, heat waves are expected to have an increasingly severe impact on agricultural production. This year, French farmers have had to deal with a mix of frost, a record May accompanied by a spring drought and intense hailstorms which brought heavy rains, followed by another drought this summer.

“The drought in much of Europe is critical,” said the European Commission’s research service. concluded in a report published on Monday, which warned that “a staggering part of Europe” – around half of the European Union and UK territory – is now at risk of drought.

Booth reported from London.

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