A Cruel Summer in Europe and the United States
It’s hot out. Dangerously hot.
Both in North America and Europe, temperatures have climbed into the triple digits, triggering high heat and wildfire alerts. The expectation is that the heat will remain high throughout the weekend.
“In a recent climate PSA, the UK Meteorological Office mocked up a weather forecast from the year 2050, warning that temperatures could hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), extreme heat for a country where the average high in July historically has been around 21 degrees Celsius (or 70 degrees Fahrenheit),” Fast Company reported. But that fake forecast has now come true, with Great Britain’s temperature rising above 40 C on 19 July.
“Sales of portable air-conditioning units rose 2,420 percent in a week, British retailer Sainsbury’s said Monday. And a surge in demand for centralized AC units in London has some installation companies booked through the fall,” The Washington Post reported.
The government announced that the country was under a state of national emergency because of the high temperatures. Trains from London were cancelled due to the impacts of extreme heat on the train tracks, and airports shut down because of heat-induced damage to runways. Grass fires started springing up in the British countryside. Even some bridges in London—notably, the Hammersmith Bridge—run the risk of instability and damage as the heat can expand and crack its cast-iron or other metallic components.
Rail infrastructure is at risk of buckling in heat waves hitting transit systems from the United States to the United Kingdom https://t.co/IxvVPJvTwc— Bloomberg New Economy (@BBGNewEconomy) July 21, 2022
The heat has also impacted services beyond traditional infrastructure. On Tuesday, 19 July, “…cooling systems for data centers used by Google and Oracle to host their cloud infrastructure have begun to fail,” according to Bleeping Computer. “To prevent permanent damage to hardware components and thus create a prolonged outage, both Google and Oracle have shut down equipment, leading to outages in their cloud services.”
While the outages might prevent permanent harm, customers for Google Cloud and Oracle are left with unreachable machines and resources that rely on the cloud infrastructure. Both companies resolved problems with cooling their respective data centers since the outages—Google on 19 July and Oracle on 20 July.
In Portugal, more than 1,000 deaths were linked to the ongoing heatwave. Both Portugal and Spain have seen multiple fires spring up despite temperatures leveling out towards more average numbers.
Meanwhile in France, firefighters were dispatched to battle forest fires in the southwestern region of Gironde. In an investigation into what has become one of the biggest wildfires the country has seen in more than 30 years, authorities have detained a man on suspicion of arson.
Prior to the current heatwave, official data showed that wildfires have ravaged about 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) in Spain—roughly twice the average of the last decade, according to Reuters.
Wildfires have also spread across Greece this month, crisscrossing in the region of Penteli, near Athens. Authorities ordered evacuations for at least four areas and a hospital near the fires.
“About 420 firefighters assisted by 85 engines were trying to tame the blaze, which was burning on several fronts by late afternoon. More than 24 helicopters and planes earlier dumped water on the flames but had to halt operations at night for safety reasons,” Reuters reported. “…Last year, wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heat wave in 30 years.”
Italy has its own wildfires to deal with, and the largest one cut through an area in Tuscany beginning on Monday and destroying 365 hectares (900 acres). “Fires were also reported in woods near Rome, as well as on the shores of Lake Orta north of Milan and near the northeastern city of Trieste,” Reuters said.
Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories are in effect this morning throughout 28 states, stretching from California to New Hampshire. High temperatures into the 90s and 100s will increase the risk of heat related illnesses. For heat safety tips, visit: https://t.co/L4FyvSS6lj pic.twitter.com/rFmVCKxDSV— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) July 20, 2022
“Above-normal temperatures will continue to prevail across much of the U.S. through the end of the week, with a significant portion of the population remaining under heat-related advisories and warnings,” the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center announced early Thursday morning.
An estimated 85 percent of the United States will be impacted by temperatures greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius), including the tens of millions of residents in the southern end of the country and other areas that will see triple-digit temperatures.
“More than 100 million people are under various heat alerts Thursday in more than two dozen states from parts of the American West to New England, a suffocating cocoon that experts believe will become increasingly common due to the effects of climate change,” CNN reported.
The heat index—what the temperature feels like to the human body due to the combination of heat with humidity—could rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius) along the East Coast, the Midwest, and the Southeast regions of the United States.
In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Department of Health declared a Heat Health Emergency for Thursday. The city activated emergency programs, including deploying special field teams to conduct home visits and outreach for people who are homeless.
New York’s Homeland Security and Emergency Services Division encouraged residents to remain inside if possible to avoid the extreme heat.
In Texas, “…the Dallas area has seen 24 days of triple-digit heat so far this year, including 15 in July, and highs there are forecast to top 100 every day for the next week,” The New York Times reported. Temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma climbed up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius).
In the Southwest, while daytime temperatures are expected to climb well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius) in southeastern California, western Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, “overnight lows are likely to remain in the 80s in many spots, providing little nighttime relief,” according to the NWS.
“Heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. And it’s all part of an overall warming trend: The last seven years have been the warmest in the history of accurate worldwide records,” according to the Times.
Reports from hospitals in Mexico indicate that the high temperatures throughout 2022 in the country are responsible for at least 690 medical emergencies.
As of 15 July, “Baja California, Campeche, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sonora and Tabasco have reported deaths associated with high temperatures,” Mexico Business News reported.
Canadians are also seeing their fair share of the heat. All of eastern and southern Ontario is under a heat warning, with temperatures expected to climb above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), although the heat index will mean it will feel closer to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
“In southern (British Columbia), temperatures are forecast to be 32 C (89.6 F) for much of the week in places like Kamloops and Kelowna, falling just short of the heat warning criteria set out by Environment and Climate Change Canada,” CBC News reported. Other Canadian areas seeing heat warnings include all or large parts of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.