When temperatures reached this territory during a heat wave in 2019, officials allowed Parisians to cool off in the Trocadero Fountain near the Eiffel Tower. This measure could be taken again in the coming days. File Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE
AccuWeather meteorologists are warning of one of the most significant heat waves in western Europe in over 200 years, or a few decades before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The long-duration, extreme weather event could turn deadly across the continent.
The heat is on in Portugal and Spain with temperatures topping out near 100 degrees F in Madrid and Lisbon, Portugal, nearly every day since Friday. Sevilla, Spain, has been one of the hottest spots with the mercury soaring above 105 degrees F for seven consecutive days, including a temperature of 112 degrees F on Wednesday.
This heat wave is expected to expand across Europe throughout the week and potentially through the end of the month for some areas.
"There is concern that this heat could become a long-duration heat wave (20 or more days) for many locations from Portugal to central France and interior southeastern Europe, as it could last for the rest of July and continue into August," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tyler Roys said. This includes the valleys of Hungary, eastern Croatia, eastern Bosnia, Serbia, southern Romania and northern Bulgaria.
The severity of the impending heat could rival the 2003 heat wave when over 30,000 people died, both directly and indirectly, due to the heat, Roys said. He added that this could be one of the worst heat waves in Europe since 1757.
The source of the exceptionally warm air is Africa's Sahara Desert with heat projected to expand farther north and east each day, reaching Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom by the weekend. "July all-time records are at risk of being approached, tied or even broken across Ireland and the United Kingdom," Roys said. "This includes individual cities such as Birmingham, Dublin, Manchester and York."
A new all-time record high could be set in the United Kingdom during the peak of the hot spell. The current record in the country is 102 degrees F, which was set in Cambridge Botanica Garden on July 25, 2019. Londoners likely won't experience temperatures this extreme, but temperatures are predicted to top 86 degrees F for at least three consecutive days, potentially approaching 95 degrees F during the height of the heat.
Britain has issued an "amber" alert due to the impacts expected from the extreme heat. England's government is also mulling over the declaration of the first-ever national heat wave emergency, Sky News reported. In this never-before-used emergency, officials say that "illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy -- and not just in high-risk groups."
In Paris, temperatures over the weekend and into early next week could come within a degree or two of 104. When temperatures reached this territory during a heat wave in 2019, officials allowed Parisians to cool off in the Trocadero Fountain near the Eiffel Tower. This measure could be taken again in the coming days.
Riders and spectators of the Tour de France should also break for the abnormally high temperatures as the tour weaves its way across southern France after leaving the Alps. Spectators lining the roads should take the proper precautions to avoid heat-related illness, especially when roads are closed for cyclists as the temporary closures could limit access to some healthcare facilities, experts say.
The most extreme heat will focus on Portugal and Spain, countries that are battling wildfires.
Temperatures more common for Death Valley, Calif. -- touted as one of the hottest places on Earth -- will be possible in eastern Portugal and western and southern Spain during the height of the hot spell.
The AccuWeather LocalMax Temperature is 120 degrees F in southwestern Spain. For comparison, temperatures typically top out near 118 degrees in Death Valley in July. That temperature in Spain could occur on Thursday and Friday.
People planning to travel to Europe for vacation through the end of July should prepare for the heat and be ready to change plans if events or buildings are canceled or closed due to the extreme weather.
"Tourist destinations across Portugal are being closed for the safety of the public and, in some cases, due to nearby fires," Roys said. More closures are possible across Portugal, Spain and France due to wildfires and heat.
Additionally, air conditioning is not used as widely in Europe as it is in the United States. Even where there are air conditioners, they may not cool down buildings as much as those in the United States.
An initiative in Italy dubbed "operation thermostat" states that air conditioners cannot be set lower than 81 degrees F in an effort to conserve energy, according to Politico. Residents or businesses that do not comply with this new law could be fined roughly the equivalent of $500 to $3,000.
Meteorologists say travelers should also be mindful of wildfire activity, especially those with poor respiratory health, as the smoke from the wildfires could be dangerous. As of Thursday, air quality was "fair" to "poor" across most of Europe, according to Plume Labs, an environmental technology company acquired by AccuWeather earlier this year.
|Air quality across Europe on Thursday. Image courtesy of AccuWeather/Plume Labs
The widespread heat wave is not predicted to let up anytime soon with temperatures remaining well above average through next week across much of Europe. All-time records could continue to be challenged next week, according to AccuWeather forecasters.
Long-term heat waves are uncommon in Europe, but they are not unheard of.
"Over the last 25 years, there have only been three long-duration heat waves to impact parts of Europe: 2003 (western and central Europe, 32 days), 2006 (western and north-central Europe, 35 days) and 2021 (Italy and southeast Europe, 21 days)," Roys explained. Last summer was also the hottest on record for Europe.
The extended hot spell could also impact local economies, including agriculture.
"The soil across Portugal to Germany is in the process of quickly losing whatever moisture it contained," Roys said. "This drying is not expected to let up but only intensify during the duration of the heat wave as little to no precipitation is expected across much of the region."
The ramifications of this may not be fully realized until the autumn harvest.