The UK and Europe Heat Up Earlier, Longer
Europe is experiencing one of its hottest summers, with many countries experiencing temperatures around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. And since spring was also dry and hot, the continent’s wildfire season came earlier than usual and has already consumed forests in Spain, Greece, Croatia, and other countries. One in southwest France forced 16,200 people to evacuate.
FRANCE 24: Climate change | Europe heat sparks harmful ozone pollution, 'extreme' fire risk, July 19, 2022.
In the UK, where such high temperatures (100 degrees F and above) are a first, only around 3% of homes are air-conditioned, and most are made of centuries-old, heat-retaining brick. Some public health experts predict a death toll that could reach the 1,000s as the nation waits for temperatures to drop this week, NBC reports. The National Rail canceled some train services and some schools have gone online. These irregularly warm summers are expected to get hotter, longer, and more deadly, while winters are expected to get shorter.
TODAY: Record-Shattering Heat Wave Leads To Deaths Across Britain, July 19, 2022.
Substantial warming has also placed the region’s glaciers in jeopardy. In July, after temperatures in the peaks of the Italian Alps reached a record-setting high of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the Marmolada glacier partially collapsed, triggering a deadly avalanche that killed 11. Experts reviously considered this specific glacier to be relatively risk-free. But now, though, as the region grows hotter, scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to predict potentially catastrophic collapses.
CBS: Europe faces record-breaking heat wave, July 19, 2022.
Why This Matters
Climate change is making heatwaves like this one more likely and more intense -- and much of Europe’s infrastructure isn’t equipped to handle temperatures this high. In the UK, for example, airports including London’s Heathrow recently experienced "melting” asphalt on their runways as temperatures rose to nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Failing infrastructure increases people's vulnerability to extreme heat, a public health threat that can be (and often is) fatal. In Portugal and Spain, there have been more than 1,100 heat-related fatalities in the past week. And with emissions continuing to increase, summers with soaring temperatures are expected to be the norm.
Such extreme heatwaves would have been impossible if it weren’t for people pumping climate-warming emissions into the air.
Guardian: World Meteorological Organization holds press conference amid heatwaves, July 19, 2022.
BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.
DW: Time is running out | WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.
Summers are warming up worldwide, not just in Europe. In the Western US, where it’s getting hotter the fastest, the last five summers have been one degree Fahrenheit higher than the national average and a full 2.7 degrees F warmer than those between 1971 and 2000. This summer, many of the country’s major cities, including Minneapolis, Tulsa, Chicago, Charlotte, and Phoenix, have already been under excessive heat warnings for temperatures at 110 degrees F when factoring in the humidity.
BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.