- Wales reported its hottest temperature on record Monday of 95.5 degrees.
- British authorities have described the heat wave as a “national emergency.”
- In France, heat records were broken and swirling hot winds complicated firefighting in the country’s southwest.
An extreme heat wave that meteorologists call an “apocalypse” broiled much of Europe and the United Kingdom on Monday, and hundreds of people died because of record high temperatures and ferocious wildfires.
At least 748 heat-related deaths have been reported in the heat wave in Spain and neighboring Portugal, where temperatures reached 117 degrees this month.
Wales reported its hottest temperature on record Monday of 95.5 degrees, the U.K. Met Office said.
All-time heat in Britain?
The U.K.’s high-temperature record is in jeopardy this week, AccuWeather said. The record stands at 102 degrees from the Cambridge Botanic Garden on July 25, 2019. Although that record was not broken Monday, it could be surpassed Tuesday, meteorologists said.
British authorities described the heat wave as a “national emergency” and portions of the nation are under an “extreme” heat warning for the first time.
In Britain and most of Europe, few homes, apartments, schools or small businesses have air conditioning, making residents vulnerable.
“Extreme heat can be dangerous to human health,” said Eunice Lo, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol. “On average, about 2,000 extra deaths in England are related to heat waves each year. It is important to stay hydrated, stay indoors or under shade and check on friends and family during a heat wave.”
At least four people were reported to have drowned across the U.K. in rivers, lakes and reservoirs while trying to cool off.
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Airport runways are melting in the UK
The high temperatures affected airfields in Britain. London’s Luton Airport, which serves mostly low-cost airlines with flights to other countries in Europe, reported a runway defect around 4:30 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon. The airport’s operator said arriving flights were diverted and departures were suspended while repair work was done.
“Following today’s high temperatures, a surface defect was identified on the runway,” Luton Airport said in a statement. “Engineers were called immediately to site and repair works are currently in progress to resume operations as quickly as possible. We would like to apologize for the inconvenience caused.”
Blistering heat in Switzerland
The heat is also intense in mostly un-air-conditioned Switzerland, where Geneva resident Michelle Levesque said that in her apartment, her shades are down, the windows are closed, and the fans are on. “It makes me hate summer,” she said. “I’m looking forward to September.”
The high in Geneva on Monday was a blistering 98 degrees.
In France, heat records were broken, and swirling hot winds complicated firefighting in the country’s southwest.
“It never stops,” David Brunner, one of 1,500 firefighters battling to control a wildfire in France, told The Guardian. “In 30 years of firefighting, I have never seen a fire like this.”
Authorities evacuated towns, moving 14,900 people Monday from areas that could find themselves in the path of the fires and choking smoke. More than 31,000 people have been forced from their homes and summer vacation spots in the Gironde region of France since the wildfires began July 12.
Is climate change to blame for the heat wave?
Scientists said heat waves are more intense, more frequent and longer because of climate change.
“Climate change is driving this heat wave, just as it is driving every heat wave now,” said Friederike Otto, a scientist at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College in London. “Greenhouse gas emissions, from burning fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, are making heat waves hotter, longer-lasting and more frequent.
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“Heat waves that used to be rare are now common; heat waves that used to be impossible are now happening and killing people. We saw this with the Pacific Northwest heat wave last year, which would have been almost impossible without human-caused warming,” Otto said.
Contributing: Zach Winter and Claire Thornton, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.