Heat waves across multiple continents have dashed records, threatened public health and buckled infrastructure, in what scientists say are signs of the climate crisis’ impact on day-to-day weather.
Temperatures in the UK breached 40 degrees Celsius for the first time on Tuesday, making it the country’s hottest day on record.
In Europe, a strong ridge of high pressure has allowed temperatures to build over the continent for the past several days. On Tuesday, an area of low pressure was moving in off the coast, acting to help funnel the extreme heat northward into the UK.
The heat waves is the influence of greenhouse gas emissions and the planet’s ever-warming baseline temperature.
The UK Met Office’s chief scientist, Stephen Belcher, was in a state of disbelief about the shocking temperatures the country experienced Tuesday, noting they would have been “virtually impossible” the UK in an “undisrupted climate.”
“But climate change driven by greenhouse gases have made these temperatures possible, and we’re actually seeing that possibility now,” he said, adding that if the world keeps emitting greenhouse gases at the level it is now, such heat waves are likely to occur there every three years.
Forty degrees Celsius mat not be that hot to someone sitting in the Central US, Australia, the Middle East or in northern India. In the UK, it forced people to work from home and students to study remotely. Authorities told people not to take trains, which become dangerous on hot tracks that expand and bend in the heat.
In other words, don’t leave home.
But in the UK, which is more likely to struggle with cold rather than hot, homes too are designed to keep heat in. Desk fans are selling out all over the country, but they only go so far.
The weather has got Brits so hot and bothered, poor heat management has become the latest criticism hurled at the nation’s outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson.
So many fires ignited in London on Tuesday that the city’s fire brigade declare a “major incident” and were stretched beyond their capacity. Four people have drowned as people flocked to beaches, rivers and lakes just to try to get cool. Even a runway at an airport on London’s outskirts had to be closed off as it melted in the heat.
In southern Europe, a region more accustomed to extreme heat, at least 1,100 people have died in the latest heat wave, and French firefighters are overwhelmed with blazes tearing through forests. Twenty-one European nations are under heat-related warnings.