Extreme heat continues assault on North Hemisphere

Heatwave has brought record high temperatures to several continents, making the Northern Hemisphere sweltering in extreme heat and fueling wildfire across Europe and the United States.

A recent modeling study, published in Nature Geoscience on July 4, shows that an expanding high-pressure system over the North Atlantic — the Azores High — is leading to anomalously dry conditions across the western Mediterranean.

The area of high pressure currently over Britain will progressively move east across north-central Europe and reach the Northern Balkans by the middle of next week, resulting in high temperatures for much of Western and Central Europe, according to a report issued by the World Meteorological Organization on Monday.

An ordinarily cool, damp Britain suffered its hottest day on record, with temperatures soaring past 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, according to the country’s national weather service.

France’s national weather service confirmed on Tuesday that record-high temperatures were registered in 64 different areas around the country. Most of the highs were recorded along the western Atlantic coast, where temperatures have soared above 40 degrees Celsius.

Spain is in its second heatwave of the summer. Its health ministry said on Monday that 510 people died from heat-related causes in the first week of a heatwave when the mercury reached 45 degrees Celcius in some parts of the country.

On Tuesday, Germany experienced the hottest day this year, with a high temperature of 39.5 degrees Celsius. The record temperature shows that “climate change is here and we humans need to adapt,” the German government said.

The heat engulfing Japan brought about the shortest rainy season in the Tokyo area since records became available in 1951. For the first time in seven years, the Japanese government requested that businesses and households conserve electricity for three months to avoid a power crunch as temperatures hit record highs.

In the United States, heat advisories and excessive heat warnings were issued, affecting more than 105 million people in 28 states across Central America and the Northeast.

WILDFIRES

In Europe and the United States, the scorching temperatures have largely contributed to the spread of fires.

In the United States, the National Interagency Fire Center statistics show that in 2022, 37,395 wildfires have already burned a total of 5,499,140 acres.

Amid the sweltering heat, wildfires have broken out in multiple areas in Britain. According to the Fire Brigades Union, firefighters and control staff have been stretched to the limit, noting on Wednesday that 15 fire and rescue services have declared major incidents.

In Portugal, temperatures have fallen, but due to severe or extreme drought conditions elsewhere, the mainland faces a considerable fire risk, according to its national meteorological office.

Three fires have broken out in Croatia since July 13, with an estimated 3,300 hectares of land burned in a severe wildfire in central Croatia, according to a government source.

In Spain, the heatwave has raised the risk of forest fires to “extreme” and “very high” levels in nearly all parts of the country. Spain has suffered over 250 wildfires so far in 2022, which have burned off over 90,000 hectares of land, surpassing the losses reported in 2021.

Deaths remain a concern, especially among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the pregnant and those whose work requires more exposure to extreme heat for long periods. ■

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