BERLIN (AP) — A blanket of hot air stretching from the Mediterranean to the North Sea is bringing much of Western Europe its first heat wave of the summer, with temperatures topping 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees) on Friday. Fahrenheit) from London to Paris.
Forecasters say the unusually early heat wave is a sign of things to come as global warming continues, rising on calendar temperatures Europe would have previously seen only in July and August.
“In some parts of Spain and France, temperatures are more than 10 degrees higher – that’s huge – than average for this time of year,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.
In France, some 18 million people woke up to heat wave alerts that affected about a third of the country on Friday. Forest fire warnings were issued from the Pyrenees in the south to the Paris region.
Tourists dipped their feet in fountains near the Eiffel Tower or sought relief in the Mediterranean.
France has introduced numerous measures to cope with extreme summer temperatures following a deadly heat wave in 2003 that killed an estimated 15,000 people.
On Friday, schoolchildren were allowed to skip classes in the 12 regions in western and southwestern France that were under high alert. The government stepped up efforts to ensure nursing home residents and other vulnerable populations could stay hydrated.
Temperatures in France rose throughout the week, topping 39 C (102.2 F) in the southwest on Friday. Nighttime temperatures are also unusually high and the heat is spreading to normally cooler regions in Brittany and Normandy on the Atlantic coast.
Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist with the national weather service Meteo France, told public broadcaster France-Info that temperatures are expected to break several records. He called the exceptionally early long period of warm weather a “marker of climate change.”
Britain recorded its hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures reaching 32.4C Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) at Heathrow Airport near London shortly after noon.
The heat wave prompted organizers of the Royal Ascot horse racing event to relax their famously strict dress code, with men allowed to remove their jackets and ties once the traditional carriage procession of members of the race was over. Royal family.
In the Dutch capital Amsterdam, people boarded trains to the nearest North Sea beach on Friday afternoon, while others took to boats and paddle boards on one of the city’s historic canal rings.
In Germany, where firefighters were battling several wildfires, including one south of the capital Berlin, the national weather service forecast the sweating would continue through the weekend as heat moves into central and eastern Europe. It follows an unusually dry spring in western Europe, with authorities ordering water rationing in northern Italy and parts of France and Germany.
Experts say climate change is already affecting rainfall patterns and evaporation rates across the region, with knock-on effects for agriculture, industry and wildlife.
“Heat waves are starting earlier,” said Nullis, of the UN weather agency. “They are becoming more frequent and more severe due to greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, which are at a record level. What we are witnessing today is unfortunately a foretaste of the future.”
He noted that extreme temperatures affected other parts of the world in recent weeks. Nearly a third of Americans were under some type of heat advisory this week. During months of scorching temperatures, India and Pakistan saw the mercury exceed 50 C (122 F) in some places.
The current heat wave in Europe began almost a week ago in Spain, where temperatures reached 43 C (109.4 F). Spanish authorities expect the weather to start cooling down again on Sunday.
Intense temperatures and lack of rain have helped fuel wildfires across Spain, testing firefighting capacity.
The heat was also being felt at a meeting in Madrid, where experts and lawmakers met to discuss ways to tackle drought and the growing spread of deserts around the world.