climate change

This is how hot Europe was last week


A man passes a fountain on an extremely hot summer day, with highs of 40 degrees Celsius,  in the centre of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo credit: AP Photo / Martin Meissner.

By Anders Lorenzen

If you were still unconvinced that dangerous climate change is here, you would only need to look at the weather in Western Europe last week.

On Wednesday last week, the highest ever recorded temperatures were smashed in Holland, Belgium and Germany. In Holland the mercury topped 40 degrees C for the first time ever with a reading of 40.4 degrees C. This beat the previous record of 39.3 degrees C set the previous day, and before that the record of 38.6 degrees C which had stood for 75 years.


A European heat map for the 25th of July. Photo credit: NOAA via Wikimedia

In Germany on Wednesday last week in Geilenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, an all-time national high of 40.5C was recorded.  This was beaten by one degree on Thursday in the city of Lingen when 41.5 degrees C was recorded.

In Belgium on Wednesday last week, a new high of 40.2C was recorded at Angleur, and on Thursday the temperature at Kleine Brogel near the Dutch border rose to 40.6C. The previous record was set in the 1940s.

In the UK it seemed that only the July all-time record of 36.7 degrees C had been broken but this was later revised up to 38.5 degrees C set in 2003, and later again to readings of 38.7 degrees C measured in Cambridge.

In Paris, the mercury topped 42.6 degrees C, convincingly beating the 1947 Paris record of 40.4 degrees C. In France, the impacts were potentially catastrophic as farmers were ordered to stop harvesting in the country`s second-largest grain-producing department of Oise. The decision was made after hundreds of hectares of fields caught fire during the intense heatwave.

This, in essence, means that never before have temperatures been higher in any of these countries and it puts 2019 on the pathway to surpassing all previous heat records.

The UN body, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), has said that this extreme heat is due to climate change. Pointing out that not only had temperature records been broken in several countries but some had even surpassed previous figures by 2, 3 and 4 degrees C. Claire Nullis a spokesperson from WMO said: “What we saw with this one was that temperature records weren’t just broken, they were smashed.”

Almost more worryingly this extreme heat was moving north, and it resulted in the rapid melting of ice in Greenland. This would add to already large volumes of ice melted in July. Nullis added: “In July alone, it (the Greenland ice sheet) lost 160 billion tonnes of ice through surface melting. That’s roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt – it’s not including ocean melt as well.”

The Europe wide heatwave was caused by hot air moving up from North Africa drawn northwards by high pressure and paralysing many countries in Western Europe.

A study by Britain`s Met Office has speculated that by 2050 record-breaking heatwaves could happen every other year. It stated that last year`s record-breaking heatwaves were 30 times more likely to occur than in 1750, because of the high amount of carbon dioxide now present in the atmosphere.

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