Climate

Western Europe Shatters Temperature Records During Multi-Day Heat Wave

CREDIT: AP

Temperatures sailed across Western Europe Wednesday, as Britain recorded its hottest July day ever — 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit at Heathrow Airport. Across the English Channel, Paris saw its second-hottest day on record, with a high of 103.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The high temperatures are part of a multi-day heat wave that broke records across Spain earlier this week, with Madrid setting a new June record high Monday with a temperature of 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thousands lost power in western France Tuesday, as high temperatures caused power equipment to malfunction in Brittany and the Pays de la Loire. According to the Guardian, state authorities called the situation “exceptional,” noting that its unique for high temperatures to have such an impact on power equipment. Early Wednesday morning, high temperatures caused another power cut in western France that left 120,000 homes in the town of Vannes without electricity.

Governments across the continent urged residents to take precautions, warning that the heat could pose serious health risks to young children, the elderly, and those with preexisting health conditions. In August of 2003, a heat wave killed more than 71,000 across Europe, according to statistics from the International Disaster Database, making it the deadliest heat wave in history. France alone saw more than 14,000 fatalities, mostly isolated elderly. The country has since implemented emergency heat wave measures, including registries for isolated, “at-risk” individuals, and air-conditioned spaces open to the public. Because of emergency measures like these, officials don’t expect this heat wave to be as deadly as the one in 2003.

Europe isn’t the only continent to see record high temperatures in recent weeks. Last month, a heat wave in India led to more than 2,300 deaths, making it the fifth deadliest in world history. Last week, a heat wave in Pakistan killed more than 1,200, with temperatures reaching 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Morgues in the country literally overflowed as officials struggled to deal with the crisis, which was the eighth deadliest heat wave ever recorded.

In North America, the Pacific Northwest — typically temperate, even in the summer — saw record-breaking heat last week, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. Walla Walla, in Eastern Washington, hit 113 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, breaking a June record and tying the third hottest day ever recorded for the city. The heat is expected to stick around the Northwest and northern Rockies into next week, with highs in the 90s and low 100s expected in areas west of the Continental Divide.

South America also saw record-breaking temperatures last month, with the Colombian city of Urumitia setting a national June record with a high of 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit on June 27.

While it’s still too soon to connect any of the recent heat waves to climate change, scientists agree that global warming and deadly heat events are likely linked.

“Attribution of events to climate change is still emerging as a science, but recent and numerous studies continue to speak to heat waves having strong links to warming climate,” Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia atmospheric sciences program director, told ThinkProgress during India’s deadly heat wave.

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change found that 75 percent of the world’s extremely hot days can be attributed to climate change.