The few commuters who braved the heat of London’s Underground transport system on Monday had to endure temperatures deemed too hot to safely transport cattle, showing the brutal conditions sweeping through Europe and impacting everything from transport to food and energy production.
Intense heat caused London’s Luton Airport to halt flights for runway repairs, while Wales set a new record and Ireland posted its hottest temperature in more than a century. The hot and dry conditions in countries not used to scorching weather are raising concerns across the region about the effects of climate change.
After deadly forest fires in Portugal and Spain, extreme summer weather caused the water level of the Rhine, Europe’s most important river, to drop further, risking deliveries of coal and oil to power stations and industrial plants in Germany.
Heatwave Sends Parts of Rhine River to Record Lows Oil tanker Calcit 12 sails past dry banks on the Rhine River near Oberwesel, Germany, on July 14. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg
“The climate crisis is intensifying worldwide,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday, releasing a study that showed that extreme weather in recent years has cost Europe’s largest economy over 80 billion euros ($81 billion).
The tally of the damage for this summer has just started. More than 600 people have died across the region, and large swathes of France, Italy and Greece face extreme risk of wild fires. The European Union has sent three firefighting planes to help battle forest fires – two to Portugal and one to Slovenia.
“This isn’t the result of a bit of a dry period,” said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at the Atmosphere Monitoring Service in Europe’s Earth observation agency Copernicus. “It’s been years under these dry conditions.”
Amid concerns over food shortages from Russia’s war in Ukraine, the development of crops like corn has been affected, causing Paris futures to rally 10 per cent since the start of the month.
Here’s a roundup of some of the countries hit hardest in Europe’s current heatwave:
Temperatures in London and the south of England might hit a record-setting 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) this week. Trains on London’s Central and Northern lines were measured by Bloomberg on Monday morning climbed to 37 degrees Celsius, more than the maximum temperature for transporting livestock such as cows, pigs and goats, according to UK regulations.
More people worked from home and avoided the commute with footfall dropping 18 per cent in shopping districts near offices in London, according to retail-tracking data from Springboard. Tube journeys were down about the same level from last Monday, according to Transport for London.
About a third of British rail services won’t be running, and those that do will face restrictions due to the heat, Network Rail spokesman Kevin Groves said. That means a journey from London to York would take four and a half hours, more than double its normal time.
The East Coast main line from London to Edinburgh will be shut on Tuesday between midday and 8 pm, because the line can’t cope with temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius due to timber foundations and the 1980s design of the overhead equipment.
The Royal Air Force halted flights at its largest air base because of the runway “melted,” Sky News reported.
Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking, temperatures are likely on Monday, then again on Tuesday, the Met Office said. Record-setting temperatures in London will continue into Monday night as London is likely to experience its hottest night on record.
Some companies in Britain have let employees stay home to avoid heated commutes and stifling workplaces. Gymshark Ltd., which makes workout wear and employs almost 700 people in the UK, gave staff Friday and Monday off, calling it a reward for good performance. Similarly, Blackburn-based drinks exporter Sovereign Beverage Co. Ltd. also extended its weekend break to Monday.
The heatwave killed 360 people in Spain between July 10 and 15, Instituto de Salud Carlos III said on Saturday. June was the deadliest month in two years, with 830 people dying despite the country being used to such temperatures.
“Climate change kills. It kills people, it kills our ecosystem and it destroys the most precious belongings of the people affected,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said during a visit to the fire-damaged province of Caceres on the Portuguese border. “We can’t deviate from our commitment to mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”
Trade unions are calling for stronger rules to protect workers’ health. At the moment, there’s no regulation on maximum temperatures for people doing work outside.
In central Madrid during the peak of the heatwave last week, construction workers could be seen napping inside cranes and heavy machinery during the hottest hours of the day in an attempt to escape the heat. High temperatures in the Spanish capital are forecast to remain around 40 degrees this week.
In Spain, at least two people died because of the fires, according to authorities in the Castilla y Leon region. The body of a 69-year-old male was found on Monday in a burnt area in the province of Zamora, and a volunteer firefighter died on Sunday as he was helping extinguish a blaze in the same region.
Italy is also bracing for temperatures as high as 40 degrees later this week, including in the financial capital Milan. Record temperatures this month already sent a glacial ice shelf crashing from the top of the Marmolada mountain, killing 11 people.
The regional climate agency for Lombardy, around Milan, has issued a warning for ozone levels, recommending kids, the elderly and people with respiratory issues to stay indoor during hotter hours. In the region, the local farmers association Coldiretti reported vegetables, including melons and green peppers were burnt by the heat.
Italy is experiencing an “extreme drought,” according to the national research council’s drought observatory, with its largest river, the Po, at its lowest level in 70 years. The dry weather creates perfect conditions for wildfires to spread quickly.
As of Monday morning, about 1,100 firefighters were still facing blazes in Portugal, which has suffered over 200 more deaths than normal since the start of the latest heatwave.
But there are signs of progress. The fires have eased since last week, and the government on Sunday downgraded the situation to the “alert” level with temperatures forecast to fall.