Record-Breaking Intense Heat Wave Hits Europe and Sparks Massive Wildfire in Spain

Hot air from the Sahara is responsible for Western Europe's summer heat wave, according to Axios

People Bathe In The Trocadero Fountain
Photo: Samuel Boivin/NurPhoto via Getty

Europeans are in the midst of an extreme summer heat wave that’s shattering records across the continent and has sparked a rapidly growing wildfire in Spain.

Multiple all-time records in Western Europe have been broken as temperatures in Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit this month, placing many in the region at risk of conditions such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

While areas in the United States may routinely hit 100 degrees in the summer months, similar temperatures are uncommon for most of Europe, CNN notes, and many may be ill-prepared for such extreme weather. In 2003, a heat wave killed more than 14,000 people, the news station reported, and last year, another wave caused deaths in both Spain and Portugal.

“When summer temperatures are routinely in the 70s, like in northern Europe or the West Coast of the U.S., many places do not have air conditioning,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller explained. “This can turn deadly fast if heat waves strike and last for several days.”

Temperature-related records in Austria, France, Spain and Switzerland have also been broken for June, according to The Weather Channel.

Authorities have issued heat warnings throughout the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain, where a wildfire has burned through 10,000 acres in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

“We’re at a moment when the blaze is getting bigger,” said regional interior minister Miquel Buch, according to DW.

Young people cool off in a fountain in Lustgarten park next to the Altes Museum during sweltering heat on June 26, 2019 in Berlin, Germany
People cool off in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty

Upwards of 50 people have been evacuated because of the blaze, which is considered to be the worst the region has seen in nearly two decades, the outlet said.

In southern France, four administrative districts were placed on red alert — a warning for a dangerous heat wave. Schools will be closed and outdoor activities, such as sports games, will be suspended until temperatures begin to cool. Yet, temperatures are expected to rise into the weekend.

“This heat wave is unprecedented in France,” French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told DW. “It is exceptional in its intensity.”

Nuns stand in the shadow of an umbrella and use a fan to protect from the heat on a hot summer day before attending the Pope's weekly general audience at Saint Peter's square at the Vatican
Nuns stand beneath an umbrella at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City. TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the heat wave is being caused by hot air from the Sahara.

As the Weather Channel reports, a 2004 study led by the University of Reading found that climate change, spurred on my humans, will make heat waves, like the one that killed thousands in Europe in 2003, four times more likely to happen.

In a tweet, Stefan Rahmstorf — the head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research — pointed out that the five hottest European summers since 1,500 AD have all occurred in the last two decades.

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