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WEATHER

Europe sizzles as temperatures rise towards 40C

Just days after lockdowns ended and European travel restrictions were lifted, many were staying home in the cool on Tuesday as a mini-heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celcius.

Europe sizzles as temperatures rise towards 40C
AFP

Just days after lockdown ended and European travel restrictions were lifted, many were staying home in the cool Tuesday as a heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celcius.

In some areas, the mercury was even seen topping 41 degrees Celcius (106 degrees Fahrenheit), such as Seville in southern Spain where people were cooling off in fountains or taking a dip in the Guadalquivir River in the morning, an AFPTV correspondent said.

Elsewhere in southern and western areas, temperatures have hovered around 40 degrees since Sunday, and by Tuesday nine regions were on high alert for the heat which was expected to last until Thursday, Spain's AEMET national weather agency said.

France was also experiencing its first heatwave with temperatures in the mid-30s expected to last until Thursday, Meteo-France said.

And Britain was bracing for a flood of visitors to its beaches with the heatwave expected to last until Friday and temperatures set to climb into the mid-30s in the south and centre of the country.

“Forget Ibiza… it's hotter here,” read the headline in Tuesday's Daily Express, as the Age Concern charity urged people to keep an eye out for elderly neighbours or relatives, particularly those living alone or self-isolating due to the virus.

Even the Nordic countries were expecting temperatures above 30 degrees this week, with Sweden's SMHI forecaster saying the hottest days would be Wednesday and Thursday and warning of the increased risk of forest fires.

Despite the soaring temperatures, Sweden's public health agency advised against using fans in communal areas of elderly care homes out of concern they could spread the virus.

They advised installing air conditioning or organising other means of shade to protect the elderly who would also be at risk from the heat.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe

Europe has seen "extreme" warm winter weather in recent days, experts have said, with 2023 already posting record temperatures for January across the region.

Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe

As temperatures rise globally because of human-caused climate change, scientists say heatwaves and spells of warmer-than-average weather are becoming more common throughout the year.

After experiencing searing summer heat and a drought unprecedented in centuries, a wave of warm weather across Europe this winter has melted the snow from ski slopes in the Alps and Pyrenees, and seen temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) even in normally-freezing central
regions.   

Several European countries saw record-breaking heat on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Hundreds of weather stations across Europe have recorded all-time highest daily temperatures for the months of December or January, it said this week.

Freja Vamborg, Senior Scientist at Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said the current winter heatwave is an “extreme” heat event in Europe in terms of how far temperatures have deviated from what is expected at this time of year.   

Here Vamborg answers some key questions about the heatwave:

What caused these high temperatures?

“On the 1st of January there was a strong flow of air from the southwest across the affected area, which would have brought warmer air further north and penetrated unusually far east, reaching even to Belarus. Minimal snow cover was very probably another relevant factor.”

“The circulation of any given weather situation and climate change are not two independent things. Climate change itself also has an impact on the circulation, and will also impact how warm those moving air masses are. This is what makes it so complex to disentangle just simply a weather event, from
the level to which climate change influenced such an event.”

How is climate change involved?

“With increasing global temperatures, heatwaves and warm spells are becoming more frequent and intense — this is not restricted to the summer months.”

“While the warming trend in Europe is on average stronger in the warmer seasons, winters are also becoming warmer as a result of global temperatures.”

“Northern Europe has warmed more strongly in winter than in summer, while in the south the warming trend is more apparent in summer.”

What is the impact of these high winter temperatures?

“A couple of things can be mentioned for warm temperatures during the winter months. While it means less need for heating of housing and other infrastructures, low snow cover affects the winter tourism industry.”

“Possible impacts on natural ecosystems, include early return from hibernation, which may have negative impacts if followed by much less mild/freezing conditions.”

“The overall impact will be different depending on the longevity and intensity of the event.”

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