Extremely high temperatures have sparked major fires in London. For the first time ever, temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius in the UK. It is similarly warm in western Germany.
The British weather service Met Office measured 40.3 degrees in Coningsby in the east English county of Lincolnshire in the afternoon. It is the highest temperature ever recorded in Britain. The previous temperature record is 38.7 degrees and was measured in Cambridge in 2019.
The Met Office issued a red weather warning for heat for the first time at the end of last week. According to the Met Office, Tuesday night was the warmest since records began. The government in London has declared a state of emergency due to the heat.
Heat damage and burning homes
The fire brigade in the British capital has also declared a major damage situation due to numerous fires. The fire service is under enormous pressure, London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted.
Among other things, he called on people not to grill on grass or balconies and to dispose of cigarettes safely. Several fires broke out in Greater London, spreading from parched grassy areas to residential areas.
Rail traffic is suspended in parts of England. As the route network operator Network Rail announced, operations on the main railway lines along the English east coast and in the Midlands have been completely discontinued. People are being asked to change their travel plans. "We don't make these decisions lightly. Our engineers are working very hard to assess the infrastructure's resilience in the face of this record heat and we decided we had no choice but to shut it down," Network Rail said. It is feared that tracks could deform due to the extreme heat.
The temperatures caused significant disruption at London's Luton Airport on Monday. The airport said the surface of the runway had been damaged. Several flights were canceled or diverted. It was also extremely hot further west on the Irish island. 33 degrees were measured in the Irish capital Dublin, the highest value since 1887.
In western Germany just under 40 degrees
Overall, the high over Central Europe that is responsible for the record temperatures are slowly moving north-east. Extreme values of around 40 degrees prevailed on Tuesday in eastern France, the Benelux countries, and in western Germany.
According to the German Weather Service (DWD), temperatures of 34 to 38 degrees were measured in the southwest and west to just under 40 degrees. The Duisburg-Baerl station in the Ruhr area reported the highest value of 39.5 degrees, followed by Tönisvorst on the Lower Rhine near Krefeld with 39.2 degrees. The German temperature record is still a long way from all these values. According to the DWD, 41.2 degrees Celsius were measured on July 25, 2019, at the stations in Duisburg and Tönisvorst.
Health authorities urge caution and advise: drink a lot and avoid direct sun. According to meteorologists, temperatures in the west will drop on Wednesday, but it will be hotter in the east.
Traffic restrictions are triggered by the midsummer weather in France. In the east, it should be up to 40 degrees hot. The Grand Est region in the east of the country imposed restrictions on motorists because of air pollution caused by the sun and heat. The measures include a speed reduction of 20 km/h on motorways and dual carriageways.
Meanwhile, the heat wave in the west of the country is expected to subside somewhat and let residents on the Atlantic coast breathe a sigh of relief. The French weather service Météo-France lifted the highest heat warning level for 15 departments on the Atlantic coast. However, the second highest warning level still applies to 73 of the 101 departments in France.
Toxic combination - heat, and drought
Near Bordeaux, almost 1,700 firefighters continue to fight the fires, which according to the authorities have so far destroyed around 17,000 hectares of forest. Around 16,000 people had to be brought to safety in the surrounding areas on Monday. West of Bordeaux, not far from the highest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat, five campsites burned down "90 percent," according to the authorities. 6,000 holidaymakers had already been evacuated there last week.
In Italy, Bolzano, Brescia, Florence, and Perugia, among others, are affected by the heat and muggy air. In addition, the fire brigades are still on alert and are fighting forest and bush fires across the country. Civil protection in Sicily declared the highest risk level for forest fires in some areas. There are also fires in parts of Spain and Portugal. According to official estimates, the fires that have been raging for about ten days in Spain have so far destroyed a total of 25,000 hectares of forest and dozens of houses, shops, and factories. In Portugal, according to the nature conservation authority ICNF, the flames destroyed around 30,000 hectares of forest in just over a week.
For Spain and Portugal, as for western France, there is good news: the heat wave with temperatures of up to 45 degrees, which has had the Iberian Peninsula under control since July 9, is coming to an end, the local weather service assured aemet.
The situation in the forest fire areas has been exacerbated by a drought that has been going on in large parts of Europe for months. According to a report by the joint research center of the EU Commission, a large part of the area of the European Union is threatened by drought. At the end of June, 46 percent had a drought warning level of two, and 11 percent of the area even had the highest of three warning levels. Severe drought continues to spread and worsen, the report said. This is also due to a lack of precipitation in combination with heat waves. Climate change is increasing the risk of severe droughts and forest fires around the world stressed EU Research Commissioner Marija Gabriel.
Pleasant 29 degrees in Athens
While people in western and central Europe are groaning under a heat wave, temperatures in Greece are comfortably around 30 degrees. For the heatwave-plagued capital Athens, the weather agency reported temperatures of around 29 degrees.