Last Friday in this space, we looked at record-breaking heat across much of China — and the myriad ways people were dealing with it. It’s cooler in China this week; now it’s Europe’s turn. Heat records have fallen in Great Britain and France — causing widespread discomfort and in some places, clear danger. On Tuesday, several regions of England — London included — have seen the mercury move north of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, in a country where only a small minority of people have air conditioning. The previous high was more than two degrees lower — 101.7 — recorded in 2019. And by way of comparison, the average July temperature in the U.K. is roughly 70 degrees.
Tuesday, Britain’s national weather service issued a “red extreme heat warning” for the first time in its history, the U.K.’s Network Rail put out “do not travel” warnings for trains passing through those red-alert areas, and the London Fire Brigade said it was responding to several “significant fires” around the city.
Larger-scale fires have raged to the south of Britain. Hundreds of people have died as a result of wildfires in southern Europe — 748 in Spain and Portugal alone. Those countries — and France and Greece as well — have deployed firefighters and evacuated residents in scenes more common to the American West. Near Barcelona, more than 80 teams of the “Bombers de la Generalitat” have been deployed, and two huge wildfires have been burning in southwestern France — the fires in the Gironde region are the largest that country has seen in more than 30 years. As far as the thermometer goes, temperatures have reached triple digits in much of France; in Nantes, the country’s sixth-largest city, a Monday reading of 109 degrees Fahrenheit obliterated the previous record of 104.5. That was in 1949.
As with China last week, these photos document both the sweltering heat and the ways in which people are trying to cope. And as was the case in China, there is relief in the forecast. London is expected to be back in the 80s — as soon as tomorrow.