By Anders Lorenzen
For the second year running Europe has been hit by a deadly heatwave which has claimed 13 lives across five countries. This has raised many concerns about the rapid impact of a warming climate. This treacherous but short-lived heatwave fell early this year, with the normal summer months of July and August ahead of us, and with the possibility of more heatwaves.
France looks to be the worst impacted country, with the death tally at five and a new temperature record of 45.9 °C recorded on the 28th of June in Gallargues-le-Montueux.
France’s weather service Météo-France said that the extreme heat was comparable to August temperatures in California’s Death Valley. In the worst-hit Gard region, scores of overnight fires burned some 550 hectares of land (about 1,360 acres) and destroyed several houses and vehicles. 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilized to contain the flames, the emergency services said. One of the casualties in the neighbouring Vaucluse region was a man who had been cycling in a mountainous area and had collapsed and died from the extreme heat.
Spain has also been hit by a series of wildfires, and forty of Spain’s 50 regions was placed on weather alert, with seven of them considered to be at extreme risk.
In Italy, hospitals in the financial capital Milan saw a 35% rise in emergency visits due to heat-related conditions. Demand for power in the city surged as people cranked up the air conditioning, which caused sporadic blackouts in stores and restaurants.
The heatwave even stretched as far north as Denmark and Sweden.
The World Meteorological Organization did not stop short of blaming climate change, saying that the European heatwave was “absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. The UN body also said that 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years, and 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.