Baltimore Sun

UK sees its highest temperatur­e ever

Wildfires scorch Europe as unusual heat wave persists

- By Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless

LONDON — Britain shattered its record for highest temperatur­e ever registered Tuesday amid a heat wave that has seared swaths of Europe, as the U.K.’s national weather forecaster said such highs are now a fact of life in a country ill-prepared for such extremes.

The typically temperate nation was just the latest to be walloped by unusually hot, dry weather that has triggered wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and led to hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames racing toward a French beach and Britons sweltering — even at the seaside — have driven home concerns about climate change.

The U.K. Met Office weather agency registered a provisiona­l reading of 104.5 degrees at Coningsby in eastern England — breaking the record set just hours earlier. Before Tuesday, the highest temperatur­e recorded in Britain was 101.7 degrees, set in 2019. By late afternoon, 29 places in the U.K. had broken the record.

As the nation watched with horror and fascinatio­n, Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said such temperatur­es in Britain were “virtually impossible” without human-driven climate change.

He warned that “we could see temperatur­es like this every three years” without serious action on carbon emissions.

The sweltering weather has disrupted travel, health care and schools. Many homes, small businesses and even public buildings, including hospitals, in Britain don’t have air conditioni­ng, a reflection of how unusual such heat is in the country better known for rain and mild temperatur­es.

The intense heat since Monday has damaged the runway at London’s Luton airport, forcing it to shut for several hours, and warped a main road in eastern England, leaving it looking like a “skate park,” police said. Major train stations were shut or nearly empty Tuesday, as trains were canceled or ran at low speeds out of concern rails could buckle.

London faced what Mayor Sadiq Khan called a “huge surge” in fires because of the heat. The London Fire Brigade listed 10 major blazes it was fighting across the city Tuesday, half of them grass fires. Images showed several houses engulfed in flames as smoke billowed from burning fields in Wennington, a village on the eastern outskirts of London.

Sales of fans at one retailer, Asda, increased by 1,300%. Electric fans cooled the traditiona­l mounted troops of the Household Cavalry as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. The length of the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was shortened. The capital’s Hyde Park, normally busy with walkers, was eerily quiet — except for the long lines to take a dip in the Serpentine lake.

“I’m going to my office because it is nice and cool,” said geologist Tom Elliott, 31, after taking a swim. “I’m cycling around instead of taking the Tube.”

Ever the stalwart, Queen Elizabeth II carried on working. The 96-year-old monarch held a virtual audience with new U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley from the safety of Windsor Castle.

A huge chunk of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained under the country’s first “red” warning for extreme heat Tuesday,

meaning there is danger of death even for healthy people.

Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that the likelihood of temperatur­es in the U.K. reaching 104 degrees is now 10 times higher than in the pre-industrial era. The head of the U.N. weather agency expressed hope that the heat gripping Europe would serve as a “wake-up call” for government­s to do more on climate change. Other scientists used the milestone moment to underscore that it was time to act.

Extreme heat broiled other parts of Europe, too. In Paris, the thermomete­r in the French capital’s oldest

weather station — opened in 1873 — topped 104 degrees for just the third time. The 104.9 measured by weather service Meteo-Frace on Tuesday was the station’s second-highest reading ever, topped only by a blistering 108.7 degrees in July 2019.

Drought and heat waves tied to climate change have also made wildfires more common and harder to fight.

In the Gironde region of southweste­rn France, ferocious wildfires continued to spread through tinderdry pine forests, frustratin­g efforts of more than 2,000 firefighte­rs and water-bombing planes.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from homes and summer vacation spots since the fires

broke out July 12, Gironde authoritie­s said.

A smaller third fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further taxing resources.

In Greece, a large forest fire broke out northeast of Athens, fanned by high winds. Fire Service officials said nine firefighti­ng aircraft and four helicopter­s were deployed to try to stop the flames from reaching inhabited areas on the slopes of Mount Penteli, some 16 miles northeast of the capital..

But weather forecasts offered some consolatio­n, with temperatur­es expected to ease along the Atlantic seaboard Tuesday and the possibilit­y of rains rolling in late in the day.

 ?? MICHEL SPINGLER/AP ?? Dogs play Tuesday in a fountain in Lille, northern France, as Europe sweats through an intense heat wave.
MICHEL SPINGLER/AP Dogs play Tuesday in a fountain in Lille, northern France, as Europe sweats through an intense heat wave.

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