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Heatwave Sweeps Across Europe as Wildfires Rage

Europe Heatwave
A record-breaking heatwave is expected for England this week with the state weather service issuing its first red warning. Above, expected temperatures for Tuesday. Credit: Met Office

A record-high temperature of 41° Celsius—105.8° Fahrenheit—predicted in England on Monday is part of a heatwave across Europe that has sparked devastating wildfires and prompted evacuations.

The intense heat has led to deadly wildfires in Portugal, where at least 238 people have died, according to the BBC, and in the southwest part of France, where over 12,000 people have been evacuated.

Europe Heatwave Brings Red Warning in England

The extreme heat predicted for England on Monday would shatter the existing record of 38.7° Celsius—101.7° Fahrenheit—set in Cambridge in 2019.

The heatwave there was expected to last through Tuesday, said forecasters at the national weather service, known as the Met Office. Meteorologists there issued the country’s first-ever Red warning for extreme heat. The heat is expected for much of England, stretching from London and the southeast up to York and Manchester.

Greece, which dealt with its own heatwave last month—where nearly twenty locations recorded highs of 40° Celsius on June 23rd—is now contending with a surge in wildfires brought on by extreme heat and winds. The Hellenic Fire Service dealt with 51 forest fires across Greece in 24 hours by Friday evening, the second such occurrence in a little over a week. Firefighters kept battling wildfires in Rethymno, Crete until dawn as strong winds hampered operations. Over the weekend, a wildfire—believed to have been arson— rekindled at the Cretan municipality of Agios Vassilios, Rethymno because of strong winds. The fire was burning at the Agios Georgios area, where luxury rental homes were evacuated.

Also on Friday, a fire in southeast Athens prompted calls for nearby residents to evacuate amid strong winds, as this year’s fire season in Greece continued to test resources. Last week, two people died when their helicopter crashed into the sea off the island of Samos as the four-person crew was battling a wildfire on the island.

Meteorological experts say heatwaves have increased in frequency, intensity, and duration because of human-induced climate change. Since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. Consequently, in the last thirty years, the number of climate-related disasters has tripled.

Portugal, France’s Devastating Heat

The heatwave is affecting other parts of Europe, as well. In France, forecasters predicted new record-high temperatures on Monday in the south after issuing warnings of the mercury rising to 41° Celsius on Sunday, the BBC reported. The country has seen around 25,000 acres of land burned as a result of wildfires in the current heatwave with hundreds of people being forced to evacuate their homes.

Portugal has fared even worse with temperatures spiking to 47° Celsius since last week, sparking fires around the nation. Temperatures will remain in the 40° Celsius range this week before dropping, forecasters have said. The worst of the heat has been in the northeast part of the country east of the city of Porto, according to reports. A Portuguese pilot died while flying an amphibious plane in battling a wildfire.

In Spain, temperatures have risen to 40° Celsius in the latest wave, meteorologists reported.

Meanwhile, the Italian government issued a state of emergency in Po Valley, and in northern Morocco, a number of villages were evacuated due to fast-moving wildfires.

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