UK breaks record for hottest temperature as Europe sizzles

UK breaks record for hottest temperature as Europe sizzles
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LONDON (AP) — Britain broke its record for the hottest temperature ever recorded Tuesday amid a heat wave that has scorched swathes of Europe, as the UK’s national meteorologist said such high temperatures are now a reality in a country. ill-prepared for such extremes.

The typically temperate nation was only the latest to be hit by unusually hot and dry weather what’s wrong with it forest fires unleashed from Portugal to the Balkans and caused hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of llamas running onto a french beach and sultry Britons, even at the seaside, have driven concerns about climate change home.

Britain’s Met Office weather agency recorded a provisional reading of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) in Coningsby in eastern England, breaking the record set just hours earlier. Before Tuesday, Britain’s highest recorded temperature was 101.7 F (38.7 C), set in 2019. Later, 29 places in the UK had broken the record.

As the nation watched with a combination of horror and fascination, Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said such temperatures in Britain were “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.

He warned that “we could see temperatures like this every three years” without serious action on carbon emissions.

The sweltering weather has disrupted travel, medical care and schools. Many homes, small businesses and even public buildings, including hospitals, in Britain do not have air conditioning, a reflection of how unusual such heat is in the country best known for rain and mild temperatures.

Intense heat since Monday has damaged the runway at London’s Luton airport, forcing it to close for several hours, and deformed a major road in eastern England, leaving it looking like a “skatepark”, police said. Major train stations were closed or nearly empty on Tuesday as trains were canceled or ran at slow speeds over fears the rails would buckle.

London faced what Mayor Sadiq Khan called a “huge increase” in fires due to the heat. The London Fire Brigade listed 10 major fires it was fighting in the city on Tuesday, half of them grass fires. Footage showed several houses engulfed in flames as smoke billowed from burning fields in Wennington, a town on the eastern outskirts of London.

Sales of fans at one retailer, Asda, increased by 1,300%. Electric fans cooled the traditional mounted troops of the Household Cavalry as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was shortened in length. The capital’s Hyde Park, normally packed with walkers, was eerily quiet, except for long queues for a dip in the Serpentine.

“I go to my office because it’s nice and cool,” geologist Tom Elliott, 31, said after the swim. “I ride my bike instead of taking the subway.”

Always unconditional, 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 under the country’s first “red” warning for extreme heat on Tuesday, meaning life is in danger even for healthy people.

Such dangers could be seen in Britain and throughout Europe. At least six people were reported to have drowned while trying to cool off in rivers, lakes and reservoirs across the UK. In Spain and neighboring Portugal, hundreds of heat-related deaths were reported in the heat wave.

Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that the chance of temperatures in the UK reaching 40 C (104 F) is now 10 times greater than in the past. it was pre-industrial.

The head of the UN weather agency expressed hope that the heat sweeping across Europe will serve as a “wake-up call” for governments to do more on climate change. Other scientists used the key moment to underscore that it was time to act.

“Although still rare, 40C is now a reality of British summers,” said Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change. “Whether it will become very common or remain relatively rare is in our hands and is determined by when and at what global mean temperature we reach net zero.”

The extreme heat also roasted other parts of Europe. In Paris, the thermometer at the oldest weather station in the French capital, opened in 1873, exceeded 40 C (104 F) for the third time. The 40.5 C (104.9 F) measured there by the Meteo-France weather service on Tuesday was the station’s second-highest reading, second only to 42.6 C (108.7 F) in July 2019.

Drought and heat waves linked to climate change have also made wildfires more common and more difficult to fight.

In the Gironde region of southwestern France, fierce wildfires continued to spread through tinder-dry pine forests, thwarting firefighting efforts by more than 2,000 firefighters and water-bombing planes.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and summer vacation spots since the fires broke out on July 12, Gironde authorities said.

A third, smaller fire broke out Monday night in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further straining resources. Five campsites caught fire in the beach area of ​​the Atlantic coast, where the flames swept through the Arcachon sea basin, famous for its oysters and spas.

In Greece, a large forest fire broke out northeast of Athens, fanned by strong winds. Fire Service officials said nine firefighting planes and four helicopters were deployed to try to prevent the flames from reaching inhabited areas on the slopes of Mount Penteli, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of the capital. Smoke from the fire covered part of the city’s skyline.

But weather forecasts offered some consolation, with temperatures expected to drop along the Atlantic coast on Tuesday and the possibility of showers later in the day.


Associated Press writers Sylvia Hui and Jo Kearney in London, John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.


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