Tuesday 15 October 2019

France issues temperature alert as 'Sahara Desert heatwave' expected across Europe this week

Tourists walk on the Trocadero esplanade with the Eiffel tower in background in Paris on June 24, 2019, as temperatures soar to 33 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images
Tourists walk on the Trocadero esplanade with the Eiffel tower in background in Paris on June 24, 2019, as temperatures soar to 33 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

Sylvie Corbet

Authorities around Paris have issued an orange alert for intense heat, the second-highest level on its scale, as very hot temperatures are expected across continental Europe this week.

France's national weather agency Meteo France said the heat wave beginning on Monday is expected to last all week with temperatures of up to 40C (104F) across the country.

The peak is expected on Thursday.

In Paris, charity organisations are patrolling the streets to provide water to homeless people and local authorities have organised air-conditioned places where they can seek shelter.

Meteorologists say the heat wave is caused by hot winds coming from the Sahara Desert.

The alert system was introduced in France following the summer of 2003, which saw an estimated 15,000 heat-related deaths, many of them older people left in city apartments and retirement homes that were not air-conditioned.

French health minister Agnes Buzyn said on Monday that "everything is ready, in retirement homes, in hospitals, in transports."

"Yet when people are fragile, even when everything is organised, there's always a higher mortality rate," she warned.

A woman uses paper as a fan Monday, June 24, 2019 in Lille, northern France. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
A woman uses paper as a fan Monday, June 24, 2019 in Lille, northern France. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Organisers at the Women's World Cup, which is being hosted by France, could be faced with implementing Fifa heat precautions, since knockout games are being played every day this week except Wednesday and Sunday.

Those precautions include holding official cooling breaks or even postponing the match if the heat at the stadium is too high.

Luckily, most of the women's games are being held at night.

Similar heat is also expected in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.

In Germany, temperatures above 40C are possible in some places on Wednesday, topping the country's previous June record of 38.2C (nearly 100.8F) set in Frankfurt in 1947.

Rescue services have urged people to look out for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are at particular risk in high temperatures.

Parts of northeastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires.

Authorities in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which circles Berlin, say the risk of forest fires is at the highest level in the coming days.

Scientists say measurements show heat waves in Europe are becoming more frequent.

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said "monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate".

"This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas," he added.

Dim Coumou, a scientist at the Free University of Amsterdam, said melting Arctic sea ice is also affecting atmospheric circulation, which in turn makes extreme heat more likely.

"Data analysis shows that the normally eastward travelling summer circulation of the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes has slowed down, including the Jet Stream," he said.

"This favours the buildup of hot and dry conditions over the continent, sometimes turning a few sunny days into dangerous heat waves."

In Ireland, temperatures could reach 28C by the end of the week, with "exceptionally warm" weather being forecast for Friday.

"It's going to be a warm start to the week and by the looks of it, it's going to be even warmer later in the week," said a Met Éireann forecaster.

"The weather is not completely settled and we expect to see some thunderstorms but they are going to be isolated.

"They are not going to be persistent."

Tomorrow and Wednesday should see even warmer temperatures of up to 25C and they will be even higher for Thursday - going from 22C to 27C - before rising to between 25C to 28C by this Friday.

"It won't be wall-to-wall sunshine initially but there will be strong spells of it.

"And later in the week it will be way warmer than usual," the spokesperson added.

He said that coastal areas would be a "bit cooler", but the country would still see some more enjoyable conditions than we have had in recent weeks.

It has been a somewhat dreary start to the summer, with Ireland experiencing cooler-than-average temperatures and sporadic bursts of rainfall over the past few weeks.

But it seems that the last day of primary school this Friday will also coincide with a much-needed change in the weather for most parts of the country, with dazzling sunshine expected.

Read more: 'Exceptionally warm' - Met Éireann predicts sizzling temperatures of 28C... but Ireland to endure thundery downpours first

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