The United Kingdom has preliminarily registered its hottest day ever, exceeding 40 degrees celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time since records began. Yesterday in France, 12 new temperature records were established. Most of Europe is dealing with a devastating climate-crisis-induced heatwave as well as wildfires, burning the continent from Portugal to Greece.
The UK’s Met Office has announced that a thermometer at London’s Heathrow airport reached 40.2°C (104.36°F), but many sites around the country have beaten the previous temperature record of 38.7°C (101.66°F). This is a preliminary measurement that will need to be confirmed by checking the instrument calibration in the coming month, but gives an idea of the effect of the heatwave on the UK.
The country has also broken the record for the highest daily minimum temperature that didn’t fall below 25.8°C (78.44°F). Daily maximum temperature records have been broken across the British and Irish Isles. It was the hottest day on record for Wales, reaching 37.1°C (98.78°F).
Railway systems in the UK are also dealing with unexpected temperatures, with one rail reaching a record-breaking 62°C (143.6°F). Rail temperature can be about 20°C (36°F) higher than the air temperature, and this major heating can lead to the tracks expanding, bending, and breaking.
Meteo France reports the breaking of at least 12 temperature records, some by several degrees. Wildfires in the country have forced 24,000 people to flee. In Gironde, the area around the city of Bordeaux, fires have destroyed over 19,300 hectares of land during the last week.
Further west in Portugal and Spain, at least 1,169 people have died as a result of the heatwave. Portugal saw temperatures of 47°C (116.6°F), a record for July. Several people died from the fires in the Iberian Peninsula.
For Italy, the peak of the heatwave will take place between Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21, and is expected to continue until early next week. The country’s longest river, the Po, has been at its lowest level ever, and a collapsing glacier killed multiple hikers early this month. In Greece, wildfires in Attica and Crete have spread over the last week.
The climate catastrophe is unfolding everywhere on the planet. Recent research shows how the intensity of storms has increased, just as 300 people died due to floods in South Africa. NASA reported that June 2022 was the hottest on record, together with June 2020. In the wake of these tragedies, many have called upon governments to act against the crisis, reducing carbon emissions, and investing in resilience strategies against these weather extremes.