Europe swelters in June heat wave

Climate change consequence

Spain, France and other Western European nations on Saturday sweltered under a blistering June heat wave that has sparked forest fires and concerns such early summer blasts of hot weather will now become the norm.

Saturday’s soaring temperatures were the peak of a June heat wave in line with scientists’ predictions that such phenomena will now strike earlier in the year thanks to global warming.

The popular French southwestern seaside resort of Biarritz saw its highest all-time temperature Saturday afternoon of 42.9 C, state forecaster Meteo France said, as authorities urged vigilance from the central western coast down to the Spanish border.

Many parts of the region surpassed 40 C, although storms were expected for the late evening.

The baking heat failed to put off heavy metal aficionados ­attending the Hellfest festival at Clisson on the outskirts of the western city of Nantes – fans made a beeline for the few areas of shade available as temperatures soared beyond 40 C.

Those who found the energy to headbang to the music were grateful for several water fountains on hand which sprayed them periodically.

Queues of hundreds of people and traffic jams formed outside aquatic leisure parks in France, with people seeing water as the only refuge from the devastating heat.

With the River Seine off limits to bathing, scorched Parisians took refuge in the city’s fountains.

“This is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France” since 1947, said Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France, as June records fell in a dozen areas, leading him to call the weather a “marker of climate change.”

Forest fires rage

In a major incident in France, a fire triggered by the firing of an artillery shell in military training in the Var region of southern France burned some 200 hectares of vegetation, local authorities said.

“There is no threat to anyone except 2,500 sheep who are being evacuated and taken to safety,” said local fire brigade chief Olivier Pecot.

The fire came from the Canjeurs military camp, the biggest such training site in Western Europe.

Fire services’ work was impeded by the presence of non-exploded munitions in the deserted area but four Canadair planes were deployed to water bomb the fires.

Farmers in the country are having to adapt.

Daniel Toffaloni, a 60-year-old farmer near the southern city of Perpignan, now only works from “daybreak until 11:30 am” and in the evening, as temperatures in his tomato greenhouses reach a sizzling 55 C.

Forest fires in Spain on Saturday had burned nearly 20,000 hectares of land in the northwest Sierra de la Culebra region.

The flames forced several hundred people from their homes, and 14 villages were evacuated.

Some residents were able to return on Saturday morning, but regional authorities warned the fire “remains active.”

Firefighters were still battling ­blazes in several other regions, ­including woodlands in Catalonia.

Foretaste of future

The UK recorded its hottest day of the year on Friday, with temperatures surpassing 30 C in the early afternoon, meteorologists said.

“I think at the moment people are just enjoying it being hot but if it gets any hotter than this, which I think it is meant to, then that’s a concern,” said Claire Moran, an editor in ­London.

Several towns in northern Italy have announced water rationing and the Lombardy region may declare a state of emergency as a record drought threatens harvests.

Italy’s dairy cows were putting out 10 percent less milk, the main agricultural association, Coldiretti, said Saturday. With temperatures far above the cows’ “ideal climate” of 22-24 C, animals were drinking up to 140 liters of water per day, double their normal intake, and producing less due to stress, it said.

“As a result of climate change, heat waves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization.

“What we’re witnessing today is unfortunately a foretaste of the future” if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise and push global warming toward 2 C from pre-industrial levels, she added.

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