Spain, France and other Western European countries sweltered this weekend under a scorching heat wave in June that sparked wildfires and concerns that such heat waves at the start of the summer will now become the norm.
The weekend’s soaring temperatures were the peak of a heat wave in June, in line with scientists’ predictions that such phenomena will now occur earlier in the year thanks to global warming.
The famous southwestern French resort of Biarritz experienced its all-time highest temperature of 42.9 degrees Celsius (109.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday afternoon, state forecaster Météo France said while that the authorities called for vigilance from the central west coast to the Spanish border.
Many parts of the region exceeded 40°C, although storms were expected on the Atlantic coast on Sunday evening – the first signs that the sweltering temperatures will “gradually recede to affect only the eastern part of the country”, reported the meteorological service.
The scorching heat didn’t put off heavy metal aficionados attending the Hellfest festival in Clisson, on the outskirts of the western city of Nantes, where temperatures soared past 40C.
Those who found the energy to headbang to the sound of music were grateful to have several water fountains on hand that watered them periodically.
Queues of several hundred people and traffic jams have formed outside water parks in France as locals see the water as the only refuge from the devastating heat.
The Seine being prohibited for swimming, burnt Parisians took refuge in the fountains of the city.
And at Vincennes zoo, on the outskirts of the capital, shaggy-haired lions licked and pawed at frozen blood given to them by zookeepers, who watched the animals in the enclosure for signs of dehydration in the sun. burning.
“This is the first heat wave ever recorded in France” since 1947, said Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo France, as June records fell in a dozen regions, which leads him to qualify the weather as a “marker of climate change”.
Forest fires are raging
In a major incident in France, a fire started by the firing of an artillery shell during military training in the Var region of southern France burned some 200 hectares (495 acres) of vegetation, local authorities said.
“There is no threat to anyone except 2,500 sheep who are being evacuated and brought to safety,” local fire chief Olivier Pecot said.
The fire originated from the Canjeurs military camp, the largest such training site in Western Europe.
Firefighters’ work was hampered by the presence of unexploded ordnance in the deserted area, but four Canadair planes were deployed to bombard the fires with water.
The country’s farmers must adapt.
Daniel Toffaloni, a 60-year-old farmer near the southern city of Perpignan, now only works “from dawn until 11:30 a.m.” and in the evening, as temperatures in his tomato greenhouses reach a sizzling 55C .
Wildfires in Spain on Saturday had burned nearly 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land in the northwestern Sierra de la Culebra region.
The flames forced several hundred people from their homes and 14 villages were evacuated.
Some residents were able to return on Saturday morning, but regional authorities warned that the fire “remains active”.
Firefighters were still battling blazes in several other areas, including the forests of Catalonia.
Temperatures above 40C were forecast for parts of the country on Saturday – with highs of 43C expected in the northeast city of Zaragoza.
There have also been fires in Germany, where temperatures were expected to hit 40C on Saturday but only reached 36C. A fire in the Brandenburg region around Berlin had spread to around 60 hectares by Friday evening .
A taste of the future
The UK recorded its hottest day of the year on Friday, with temperatures reaching over 30C by early afternoon, meteorologists said.
“I think right now people are just enjoying it being warm, but if it’s warmer than that, which I think it’s supposed to do, then that’s a concern,” said Claire Moran, editor in London.
Several towns in northern Italy have announced water rationing and the Lombardy region could declare a state of emergency as record drought threatens crops.
Italian dairy cows were producing 10% less milk, the main agricultural association, Coldiretti, said on Saturday.
With temperatures well above the “ideal climate” for cows of 22-24C, the animals were drinking up to 140 liters of water a day, doubling their normal intake and producing less due to stress, it said. -he declares.
Experts warned that the high temperatures were caused by worrying trends in climate change.
“Due to climate change, heat waves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.
“What we are witnessing today is unfortunately a taste of the future” if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise and push global warming towards 2C from pre-industrial levels, a- she added.