A Potentially Record Setting Heat Wave Is About to Scorch Europe

Photo: AP

Last year’s climate change-fueled European heat wave shrunk mountains and and revealed ancient history. So it’s with great trepidation that Europe is bracing for another scorching heat wave to descend this week.

Monthly records could fall in many locations, with the most intense heat centered on France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Belgium according to national weather agencies. Many of the standing records were set in a 2003 heat wave that killed tens of thousands across the continent. Governments have already begun warning citizens of the dangerous conditions in an effort ensure that even if the heat tops 2003 levels, the death toll doesn’t.

The cause for this heat wave lies in a weather pattern known as a rex block. The pattern is characterized by areas of high and low pressure sitting near each other and contorting the river of fast-flowing air from known as the jet stream. In this case, high pressure over Greenland and a strong low pressure system over the North Atlantic will form a race track for the jet stream to cruise through. The jet stream will dip south of the low pressure before taking a sharp turn northward and continuing west. That will cut off Europe from cooler air to the north and allow hot air to climb north from Africa.

That will essentially lock in heat and clear skies over much of Western Europe starting on Monday. The heat will then intensify over the course of the week. High temperatures are expected to skyrocket above above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday for a huge portion of France, including Paris. The forecast for Carpentras, a town of 28,000 about 50 miles north of Marseilles, is even worse. There, temperatures are expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) on Friday and Saturday. That would easily cap the monthly high temperature record for France of 41.5 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) set in June 2003, according to Reuters.

Temperatures are likely to climb above 40 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of Spain and approach that in Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium. Overnight temperatures will stay balmy, which poses particularly acute health risks to children and the elderly. The dangerous heat will also likely make for challenging conditions for the World Cup matches being played this week.

Maps put out by national weather services across the region tell the story of the heat in searing, bold colors. Meteo France has rolled out a forecast map that uses an ominous purple shade to show where the worst heat will hit throughout the week. Meteo Suisse is calling for a heat red alert in various parts of the country, indicating “high danger.”

Many European cities and regions adopted heat preparedness plans after the summer of 2003 heat wave killed up to 70,000 across the continent. Paris, for instance, has four alert levels for dealing with the heat, although the fourth has never been used. This week, it’s keeping pools open longer and setting up “cool rooms” as part of its level three plan.

Climate change is making extreme heat more common around the world, and research has shown that a portion of the deaths from the 2003 heat wave can be attributed to it. In addition to background warming, the weather pattern locking in this type of heat may also be a symptom of global warming. While it’s still an active area of research, some researchers think an increasingly kinky jet stream has to do with rapid Arctic warming, which is reducing the temperature gradient that usually pulls the jet stream taut between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.

This may be, in part, what locked in a protracted rainy period in the U.S., wreaking havoc for Midwest farmers. Now Europeans will face a different type of equally dangerous weather.


more recommended stories

  • Now-Tropical Depression Barry Mostly Spares New Orleans, But Flood Risk Remains High

    Barry Williams wading through storm surge.

  • Your Binge-Watching of Netflix and Porn Is Contributing to Millions of Tons of Emissions a Year

    Most days when I get home.

  • A Blackbird Blowing ‘Smoke’ Rings Wins Top Prize at the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards

    Whoa.Photo: Kathrin Swoboda (Audobon Photography Awards).

  • Paradise, California, Has Lost More Than 90 Percent of Its Residents Since Last Year’s Deadly Fire

    The remnants of the deadly Camp.

  • The Science Behind Tropical Storm Barry’s Potentially Catastrophic Flooding

    Photo: AP If there is one.

  • New Orleans Faces Major Flooding From Tropical Storm Barry

    Terrian Jones feels something move in.

  • Russian Coal Plant Tells Instagrammers to Please Stop Taking Selfies in Its Pollution-Filled Waste Dump

    The turquoise water of a lake.

  • AOC and Bernie Sanders Are Asking Congress to Declare a Climate Emergency

    Photo: AP Governments declaring climate emergencies.

  • That Big California Earthquake Left a Scar That’s Visible From Space

    Friday’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake near Ridgecrest,.

  • It’s Raining Inside the Metro as Flash Floods Rage Across Washington DC

    Washington, D.C. commuters came back to.

  • Austria on the Verge of Becoming First EU Country to Ban Controversial Roundup Herbicide

    A popular herbicide currently in use.

  • Magnitude 7.1 Earthquake in Southern California Is Second Major Quake in Two Days

    A liquor store in Ridgecrest, California.

  • How to Keep Your Home Cool Without Wrecking the Planet

    Summertime is officially here, baby. You.

  • The Weather Machine Reveals How the Forecast Is Made—and Why It’s Now Threatened

    Photo: AP The weather forecast is.

  • Calculation Shows We Could Add a U.S.-Sized Forest to the Planet to Fight Climate Change

    Photo: Getty Trees are good for.

  • More Than a Million Ordered to Evacuate as Southern Japan Braces for a Month of Rain in a Single Day

    The fallout from last year’s floods.

  • Last Month Was the Hottest June Ever Recorded, European Satellite Data Shows

    Photo: AP The planetary heat bender.

  • Meet the People Risking Their Lives to Study Our Dying Mountain Glaciers

    Extreme Field WorkA series about how.

  • Alaska Is Hot and on Fire

    Smoky haze from a wildfire on.

  • Airplane Contrails Have Surprising Effect on the Atmosphere

    The climate impact of flying isn’t.

  • Everyone Flopped on Climate Change During the First Democratic Debates

    Raise your hand if you want.

  • Scientists Find Dozens of Lakes Buried Far Below Greenland’s Ice

    Meltwater forms on top of the.

  • France Just Obliterated Its All-Time Heat Record

    Image: NASA WorldView France has never.

  • Wildfire Explodes in Spain as Europe Reels From Record Heat

    A burned landscape in Torre de.

  • The Gateway Protecting the Arctic’s Oldest Sea Ice Has Collapsed Months Ahead of Schedule

    The Nares Strait, open for business.

  • Big Little Lies Asks Whether Some Kids Are Too Young to Learn About Climate Change

    Following the incident, the school held.

  • Longest Oil Spill in U.S. History May Be 900 Times Larger Than Originally Estimated

    This March 31, 2015, aerial file.

  • City Dwellers Could Be Key to Saving Monarch Butterflies From Extinction

    Monarchs in Chicago!Photo: Abigail Derby Lewis.

  • Researchers Discover Giant Freshwater Aquifer off U.S. East Coast

    The south shore of Martha’s Vineyard..

  • A Strange New Blend of Rock and Plastic Is Forming on a Portuguese Island

    “Plasticrust” sticking to rocks on the.

  • Why Chennai, India’s Sixth Biggest City, Has Run Out of Water

    Satellite imagery showing Chennai’s Lake Puzhal,.

  • Oregon State Police Are Searching for Republican Lawmakers Afraid of Voting on Climate Policy

    No Republican lawmakers here.Photo: Oregon DOT.