by Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless
LONDON ( Associated Press) – Britain broke its record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Tuesday amid a severe heat wave in Europe, as the UK’s national weather forecaster said such Such highs are now a fact of life in a country prepared for extremes. ,
The generally temperate nation was the latest to be engulfed by unusually hot, dry weather that has sparked wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames rushing toward a French beach and Britons – even by the sea – have prompted domestic concerns about climate change.
The UK Met Office’s weather agency recorded a temp reading of 40.3 °C (104.5 °F) in Conningsby, eastern England – breaking the record just hours earlier. Prior to Tuesday, the highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), which was set in 2019. By later afternoon, the record had been broken by 29 venues in the UK.
As the nation watched with a combination of horror and fascination, Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said such temperatures in Britain were “nearly impossible” without human-driven climate change.
He warned that without serious action on carbon emissions “we could see temperatures like this every three years”.
Hot weather has disrupted travel, health care and schools. Many homes, small businesses and even public buildings in the UK, including hospitals, do not have air conditioning, which is a reflection of how unusual summer is in a country known for rain and mild temperatures.
Heat has damaged a runway at London’s Luton Airport since Monday, closing it for several hours, and causing a main street in eastern England to resemble a “skatepark”, police said. Major train stations were closed or nearly empty on Tuesday as trains were canceled or running at low speeds, raising concerns that trains could buckle.
London faced what Mayor Sadiq Khan described as a “huge surge” in fires due to the heat. The London Fire Brigade on Tuesday listed 10 major blazes across the city, half of which were fighting grass fires. Images showed several houses engulfed in flames as smoke from burning fields in Wenington, a village on the eastern outskirts of London.
Asda, a retailer, saw a 1,300% increase in sales of fans. The traditional cavalry of the Household Cavalry was cooled by electric wings as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was shortened. The capital’s Hyde Park, which was usually busy with pedestrians, was quite quiet – except for long lines to take a dip in Serpentine Lake.
“I’m going to my office because it’s well and good,” geologist Tom Elliott, 31, said after the swim. “I’m cycling instead of taking the tube.’
The once legendary Queen Elizabeth II continued to work. The 96-year-old monarch held a virtual audience with the new US ambassador, Jane Hartley, from the safety of Windsor Castle.
A large part of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained subject to the country’s first “red” warning for severe heat on Tuesday, meaning even healthy people are at risk of death.
Such threats can be seen in the UK and across Europe. At least six people were reported to have drowned while trying to cool off in rivers, lakes and reservoirs across Britain. In Spain and neighboring Portugal, a heat wave has caused hundreds of heat-related deaths.
Climate experts have warned that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that temperatures in the UK reaching 40 °C (104 F) are now 10 times more likely than in the pre-industrial era. times higher.
The head of the United Nations weather agency hoped that the scorching heat in Europe would serve as a “wake up call” for governments to do more on climate change. Other scientists used the moment of the milestone to underline that it was time to act.
“While still rare, 40C is now the reality of British summers,” said Frederick Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change. “Whether this will become a very common phenomenon or will remain relatively rare is in our hands and is determined by when and at what global mean temperature we reach net zero.”
The scorching heat also scorched other parts of Europe. In Paris, the thermometer at the French capital’s oldest weather station – opened in 1873 – remained above 40 C (104 F) for only the third time. The station’s second-highest reading of 40.5 C (104.9 F) measured there on Tuesday by the weather service Meteo-France was the station’s second highest ever, having topped only 42.6 C (108.7 F) in July 2019.
Droughts and heat waves associated with climate change have also made wildfires more common and harder to fight.
In the Gironde region of southwestern France, fierce wildfires continued to spread through tinder-dried pine forests, frustrating firefighting efforts by more than 2,000 firefighters and water-bombing aircraft.
Gironde officials said thousands of people have been evacuated from homes and summer vacation spots since the July 12 fire.
A minor third fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further taxing the resources. Five camp sites in the Atlantic Coast beach area engulfed in flames around the Archachon Marine Basin famous for its oysters and resorts.
In Greece, a large forest fire to the northeast of Athens was raged by high winds. Fire service officials said nine firefighters and four helicopters were deployed to prevent the flames from reaching the inhabited areas on the slopes of Mount Panteli, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of the capital. went. Smoke emanating from the fire covered a part of the city’s skyline.
But the weather forecast provided some consolation, with temperatures expected to drop along the Atlantic coast on Tuesday and rain likely to end the day.
Associated Press writers Sylvia Hui and Joe Kearney in London, John Leicester in Le Peque, France, Mike Korder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Jamie Keaton in Geneva contributed to this story.
Follow the Associated Press’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.