Europe is sweltering under record-breaking temperatures this week as a heat wave, caused by a giant bubble of warm air from the Sahara, wreaks havoc across the continent. Temperatures have reached as high as 43 degrees Celsius (110F) in France, leading to deaths and catastrophic crop failures.
For those of you from hotter climates, at the ready with your “meh, that’s just a normal day here” comments, remember, Europe is not used to these kinds of extremes! Houses are insulated against the winter cold, and air conditioning is rare. It hit almost 40C in Poland for goodness sake. Poland. This is not a country you would usually associate with such heat!
Europeans are dealing with the heat wave in a variety of ways, from the typical deadpan humor to more practical solutions. Scroll down to check out the reactions for yourself, and if you’re in Europe right now keep yourself and your animals cool and safe!
Statistics show that heat waves like this are becoming more frequent, and are something that Europeans are likely going to have to get used to. “Monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate.” Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told AP.
“This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas.”
The controlling force of the weather is the Jet Stream, a fast-flowing wind-river that loops around the northern hemisphere at a height of 10 kilometres. The Jet Stream’s behavior is linked to Arctic ice cover, which has decreased in recent years.
“The forecast from climate change models and the actuality of the last few years has shown a change to this Jet Stream,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McElwee said.
“It now has much greater loops, draped over North America and Eurasia, whereas a tighter, straighter flow used to be the norm. A looped Jet Stream induces long-lasting, low-pressure circulations and high-pressure domes,” he added.
Such a set-up has drawn air up from North Africa, in a southerly breeze, to cover Western Europe. Over the coming days the heatwave will be increasingly confined to France, Italy and Spain as a cooler breeze flows across northern and central Europe.
Dim Coumou, a scientist at the University of Amsterdam, also said that melting Arctic sea ice is affecting atmospheric circulation, which in turn makes extreme heat more likely.
“Data analysis shows that the normally eastward travelling summer circulation of the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes has slowed down, including the Jet Stream,” he said. “This favors the buildup of hot and dry conditions over the continent, sometimes turning a few sunny days into dangerous heat waves.”
Heatwaves can become really dangerous when they take place in early summer. Europe’s 2003 heatwave resulted in the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people, let’s hope that this year people are better prepared for the incoming inferno.
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