Europe’s heatwave breaks records

More than 12 countries in Europe, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, have confirmed record-breaking temperatures, following the warmest June since records began in 1880, according to meteorologists.

All four countries remain on extreme heat alert, but buildings haven’t been designed to deal with high temperatures, and most businesses struggle to keep their offices cool when things go above the mid-20s.

Transport is also severely disrupted due to the heatwave. Trains in Paris were cancelled or forced to travel at reduced speeds due to fears the tracks would distort, while some metro stations saw ticket barriers seize up due to the soaring heat.

Britain’s infrastructure has not fared much better, with passengers being urged not to travel unless completely necessary. Network Rail implemented speed restrictions due to the impact of the heat on the tracks and London Underground network reports stifling conditions in hot temperatures, with the city's Central Line seeing a top temperature of 36.7°C in one of its carriages.

Adding to the chaos in London, flights were delayed today at both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and the Eurostar was suspended as a result of power failure.

"Climate change is without doubt 'loading the dice' and making heatwaves much more likely and much more severe," said Michael Byrne, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland.

The government's advisory committee on climate change recently warned that the UK was not prepared for heatwaves, with more action needed to prevent overheating in homes, hospitals and schools, and that even vulnerable people did not consider themselves at risk.

These temperatures are alien to Europe, and we are notably poorly equipped to deal with such extremes, but if these temperatures are the new normal, then things will have to change. Previous research on resilience to heatwaves, such as the report by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, focusing predominantly on policy, regulation and infrastructure, needs to be updated and implemented so we are better prepared in the future.

Professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading, said the heatwave served as a reminder of what the country needed to do to prepare for the future. She said the UK must take "entirely achievable" steps to alleviate the problem.

But she also said: "Just to cope with the warmer climate that we are already experiencing, we have to make changes to the way we live our lives. We need to adapt our homes and buildings to stay cool, change our activities to stay out of harm's way, and take action to protect the most vulnerable people."

She concluded that authorities such as councils, hospitals, fire brigades and businesses in control of central infrastructure must act quickly on early warnings to ensure business continuity.

    Share Story:

Recent Stories