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A dangerous, widespread heatwave threatens millions in western Europe as high-level heat warnings are issued

A dangerous, widespread heatwave threatens millions in western Europe as high-level heat warnings are issued
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The UK, Portugal, Spain and France are all facing record temperatures this week with little improvement in sight.

Hot conditions will further aggravate the ongoing wildfires in southwest Europe. Level 3 heat warnings, the highest possible, are in place for 14 states in Portugal and eastern Spain through the end of the week.

“Heat warnings have now been issued for most of the country, with temperatures expected to remain consistently high throughout this week,” said Dr. Agostinho Sousa, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at the UK Health Agency.

The UK’s record temperature is 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which the Met Office says could be surpassed as early as this weekend.

“Some models produced highs of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the UK this coming weekend and beyond,” said Rebekah Sherwin of the Met Office.

As the country prepares, officials warn of the dangers to vulnerable communities.

Families cool off in the River Darent on July 12, 2022 in Eynsford, UK.  A Level 2 heat health alert has been issued for the southern and eastern parts of England.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“It is likely that population-wide adverse health effects will emerge, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, which can result in potentially serious illness or death,” the Met bureau said. “It is likely that significantly more people will visit coastal areas, lakes and rivers, resulting in an increased risk of water security incidents.”

The UK could also face road closures due to melting surfaces, as well as delays to rail and air travel amid the extreme heat.

Spain, Portugal, France and Italy

Before the heat hits Britain, it will bring scorching heat to Spain and Portugal, where “extreme” heat warnings have been the highest level issued for 14 states across both countries. Lisbon and Santarém could reach temperatures 45 degrees centigrade (113 degrees Fahrenheit) as early as Wednesday.

The heat wave on the Spanish mainland is expected to last until at least the end of the week, Spain’s national weather service announced on Monday.

It’s not just the Iberian Peninsula that’s sweltering in the heat. France is also set to remain hot through the end of the week, with temperatures reaching the mid 30’s. Heat warnings cover parts of eastern France including Toulouse and Bordeaux.

The European area is only too familiar with this. Last month Europe hit record temperatures and the second warmest June on record.

“Daily highs in Spain, France and Italy rose to over 40°C and extreme heat exacerbated developments drought conditions in the Po river basin”, Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said.
Much of Italy has also experienced a summer heatwave. Verona will see heights reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) through Friday.
Eleven died on July 3 after a Ice avalanche on the Marmolada glacier in the Italian Alps. Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi blamed the “deteriorating environmental and climatic situation” for the collapse.

The Italian government last week declared a state of emergency for five northern regions of Italy due to extreme drought conditions.

“Most of us can enjoy the hot weather when it hits, but it’s also important to stay hydrated and find shade if possible when UV rays are at their strongest between 11am and 3pm,” said Dr . Said Sousa. “If you have vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors, make sure they know how to protect themselves from the warm weather.”

The danger of forest fires

Several hydrographic catchments in Portugal are currently showing clear signs of the consequences of the ongoing drought.  An example is the Aldo Lindoso reservoir, which currently has only 15.8% of its capacity.

So far, 29 people have been injured in 35 forest fires in Portugal, the Portuguese civil protection authority said at a press conference on Saturday.

The European Commission has mobilized its firefighting fleet to help Portugal, and according to CNN Portugal, more than 80 communities in 10 counties are at maximum risk of fire in the next few days.
That Ourem fire80 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal is almost ripped through 5,000 acres since July 7th. It is currently the largest in the area while hundreds of firefighters work to contain it.
As the drought progresses, the heat increases the risk of fire. The Portuguese government declared a “state of emergency”. Reinforce emergency services before the heat wave. Most of the country faces “extreme” to “very extreme” fire risks throughout the week, it said European forest fire information system.
Coruche, Santarém, could see a high of 48 degrees (118 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, which it said would break a record for Portugal Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).
The IPMA also said more than 96 percent of the country has been affected “severe” to “extreme” droughtthe two highest levels, creating an arid environment that can easily start wildfires.

Portugal’s Critical Fire Period runs from July 1st to September 30th. In the event of extreme fire hazards, burning campfires, rubbish heaps, fireworks, or fire of any kind is prohibited. Some forest areas may also be closed to unauthorized persons.

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite, Duarte Mendonca, Al Goodman and Benjamin Brown contributed to this report.

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