Millions of people are affected by the dangerously high temperatures experienced in the US, Europe and China, while wildfires rage in many places and health concerns increase.
Greece is reeling under wildfires exacerbated by scorching heat, while new record high temperatures are widely reported. Weather experts say climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, plays a key role in the extreme temperatures being experienced.
Several countries have also warned residents against the heat.
In the town of San Angelo, in Texas in the USA, the mercury rose this week to between 40 °C and 42 °C and in Arizona a temperature reading of more than 40 °C was reported at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. This broke the 1974 record of 18 consecutive days this temperature or higher was reported. Phoenix broke a 49-year-old temperature record with the 19th consecutive day of temperatures of 43.3 °C or even higher.
In Beijing in China, a 23-year-old record was broken after 27 consecutive days of temperatures higher than 35 °C.
In France, temperatures of up to 40 °C are expected in the southern parts of the country. At the ski resort Alpe d’Huez, a record temperature of 29.5 °C was recorded, while 40.6 °C was recorded for the first time in Verdun at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Two forest fires, fanned by strong winds, raged west of Athens in Greece by Wednesday, while another fire broke out on the tourist island of Rhodes. This forced local residents to flee their homes.
With a new heat wave expected to hit Greece again on Thursday, the government has appealed to residents to help guard against the outbreak of more fires.
Heat wave in prospect
On the Canary Islands, around 400 firefighters scrambled to fight a fire that destroyed a forest area of 3,500 ha. At least 4,000 residents had to leave their homes.
Due to the poor air quality, the authorities warned people to wear face masks outside their homes.
In Italy and Spain, red heat warnings were issued for three regions.
The Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily recorded record temperatures of 48.8 °C. Such high temperatures were last experienced on these islands in August 2021.
In Italy, many people sought relief in the sea, with the afternoon heat reaching a peak of 40 °C just outside Rome.
“It is definitely more tolerable on the beach because you get a bit of wind from the sea. It’s not even possible to stay in the city, it’s too hot,” said Virginia Cesario at Focene beach near Rome.
Robert Vautard, director of France’s Pierre-Simon Laplace climate institute, says the heat waves in Europe and elsewhere are “not one single phenomenon, but several that come into effect at the same time”.
“This is all reinforced by one factor: climate change,” says Vautard.
John Kerry, a climate envoy from the US, met with Chinese officials in Beijing on Tuesday as the world’s two biggest polluters try to find diplomatic solutions on how to reduce global warming gases.