The German weather service predicted that the focus on heat would shift eastward, after the country registered the warmest day of the year so far on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 103.1 degrees (39.5 degrees Celsius) in the west of the country.
Cities in Belgium and the Netherlands as well logged temperatures over 100 degrees on Tuesday, just shy of records set in a heat wave in July 2019, according to weather historian Maximiliano Herrera.
Meanwhile, firefighters in France, Spain, Greece and the United Kingdom battled forest fires that were exacerbated by high temperatures. Authorities ordered a hospital in the Athens area to evacuate.
These maps show how extremely hot it is in Europe and the United States
The London Fire Brigade declared a major incident on Tuesday when firefighters battled several major fires across the city, from Wembley in the north to Croydon in the south. Many residents were forced to flee when houses, vehicles and grasslands were engulfed in flames. Smoke clouds rolled over parts of the Thames.
Tinder-dry conditions and extreme heat have greatly increased the chances of spreading forest fires, according to the EU’s Copernicus climate monitoring service. A significant part of Western Europe was in “extreme fire danger”, it was said on Tuesday.
Together with increased carbon emissions from forest fires, Copernicus researchers warn that “very high levels” of ozone pollution caused by the heat wave could affect Northern and Western Europe in the coming days.
At low altitudes, ozone is one of the main elements in urban smog, according to Mark Parrington, a senior Copernicus researcher.
“The potential effects of very high levels of ozone pollution on human health can be significant in both respiratory and cardiovascular disease,” he said in a statement.
How to stay safe in extreme heat
As some experts pointed to the role of human-influenced climate change in the record-breaking temperatures, UN Secretary-General António Guterres convened a “moment for nature” on Tuesday.
“Our way of life – based on producing, consuming, disposing of and polluting – has brought us to this serious condition,” Guterres said in a video message.
“But since human activities are the root of this planetary emergency, it means that we also have the key to the solutions. Now is the time to transform our relationship with nature and map a new path,” he added.