A heat wave that has caused fires to rage in southwestern France and Spain is moving north toward Britain, which may see its highest recorded temperatures ever.
Fires in the south of France have burned more than 22,000 acres and prompted widespread evacuations. Britain was bracing for record high temperatures early next week.
Heat waves in Europe have increased in frequency and intensity over the past four decades.
Dangerous levels of heat are forecast across many areas of the contiguous United States on Thursday, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
About 54.7 million people — 17 percent of the population of the contiguous United States — live in the areas expected to have dangerous levels of heat.
The heat index is a measure of how hot it really feels outside, taking into account humidity along with temperature. The measurement is used to indicate when the level of heat is dangerous for the human body while in the shade. When out in the sun, a person could perceive that temperature as being up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (8.3 degrees Celsius) higher.
Britain made meteorological history on Tuesday when temperatures in some places topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time ever recorded in the United Kingdom, as a second straight day of record-setting heat gripped parts of Europe.
Fires raged in France, Spain and even areas of London, as the hot, dry conditions strained emergency services and brought misery to areas unaccustomed to such sweltering summers. By evening in Britain, however, thunderstorms were beginning to offer a respite, and milder temperatures were forecast for Wednesday.
The heat wave broke records in Britain and fueled dangerous wildfires in France and Spain, but other countries around Europe also dealt with scorching temperatures and sudden blazes on Tuesday, although forecasters in several countries expected the heat to wane in the coming days.
Extreme heat and fires gripped other parts of Europe, too.
In Belgium, the Royal Meteorology Institute put several regions on its highest level of alert on Tuesday because of uncharacteristically strong heat, including the West Flanders and Hainaut provinces. But it also said that temperatures would return to normal over the coming week.
Spain is set to approve a wind farm off the coast where Salvador Dalí once painted. The fight over the renewable energy project is emblematic of the choices Europe faces in trying to quit fossil fuels.
Heat waves prompt a reckoning
|Britain’s record-breaking heat wave has been broken, and many parts of Europe slid back into more typical summer temperatures yesterday.|
|The extreme weather left destruction in its wake. Fires are still raging in southern Europe, including in Spain, Portugal and Greece, though firefighters in France appear to have been able to mostly contain two huge blazes. And there are still travel disruptions in Britain.|
|Relief will most likely arrive in Germany and Amsterdam today and in Poland tomorrow, a top meteorologist said. But the heat is expected to persist this week in Portugal, Spain, southern France and northern Italy.|
|Analysis: The heat showed many Europeans their vulnerability to climate change and exposed how unprepared some cities in northern Europe are for extreme weather.|
|The U.S.: Nearly a third of Americans face excessive heat. Heat waves there jumped to an average of six per year in the 2010s from about two per year in the 1960s.|
|Details: London’s fire service had its busiest day since World War II, Mayor Sadiq Khan said. And Pearl Jam said wildfire smoke damaged its lead singer’s vocal cords during a Paris performance, leading the band to cancel a show in Vienna.|
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Monarch butterflies are endangered, the leading wildlife monitor said, citing climate change and habitat loss.
|The world of birds is already “really simple and brown and boring,” an ornithologist said. It is poised to get even more so, a study reported: The current biodiversity crisis means that the most distinctive birds will go extinct first.|