European Records were set for the second time this Summer as temperatures reached the hundreds in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. The Dutch national temperature record was broken on Thursday with thermometers showing 40.4 C (104.7 F). In Belgium the Royal Meteorological Institute (KMI-RMI) said the temperature at Kleine Brogel reached 40.6 C (105 F). According to the Guardian, the previous records in both countries dated back to the 1940s. “This is the highest recorded temperature for Belgium in history – since the beginning of measurements in 1833,” said the KMI-RMI’s Alex Dewalque.
In Lingen, Germany the temperature reached 41.5 C (106.7 F), the first time a temperature above 41 C has ever been recorded. Météo-France said at Paris-Montsouris station the temperature surpassed the previous high of 40.4 C, set in July 1947, and reached 42.6 C (108.6 F). Germany’s National weather service told the Guardian the mass of scorching air was hanging “like a bell” over an area stretching from the central Mediterranean to Scandinavia, squeezed between low-pressure zones over western Russia and the eastern Atlantic.
What makes these heat waves particularly worrying is how unprepared the regions are for this level of heat, as air conditioning is not particularly common in public buildings and homes across temperate Europe, nor is it widespread on transportation systems. Fewer than 5% of all European households have been air-conditioned, according to a 2017 report. That means coping with sweltering temperatures takes some creativity. Authorities have activated emergency plans that include setting up public cooling rooms and extending hours at swimming pools and parks.
Researchers at a climate change and extreme events conference are convinced that human-induced climate change is largely responsible for the latest heatwaves. The BBC spoke with members of the World Weather Attribution Group who were analyzing the link between man made climate change and the current heat waves. The researchers compared the observations of temperatures recorded during the month of June with climate models that can show how the world would be without the human influence on the climate. They found that over France, the probability of having a heatwave had increased by at least a factor of five. However, the researchers say that this influence could be much higher still, by a factor of 100 or more. “We are very confident that this lower boundary of factor five is valid - but we are not confident we can say much more than that," said Dr Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
The heat isn’t just putting people in danger, Reuters found that “The hot air that smashed European weather records this week looks set to move towards Greenland and could cause record melting of the world’s second largest ice sheet.” Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, said the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records on Thursday but surpassed them by two to four degrees Celsius, which she described as “absolutely incredible”. “This will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet,” she said. “We don’t know yet whether it will beat the 2012 level, but it’s close.” The Greenland Ice Sheet covers 80% of the island and has developed over many thousands of years, with layers of snow compressed into ice. Nullis said increasingly frequent and intense heat waves were linked to man-made climate change.