Bonjour, mes amis! The land of baguettes, escargot, and the iconic Eiffel Tower is trail blazing new temperature territory and breaking decade old heat records in June of 2019 with some devastating effects. Villevielle, a small town in southern France, broke a previous record set in the deadliest heat wave of 2003 and clocked in a scorching hot temperature at 45.1 degrees Celsius—or 113 degrees Fahrenheit for those of us residing in the land of the free and the home of the brave—to ignite a summer of heat waves throughout Europe. France isn’t alone in their misery, as Spain experiences a wildfire ravaging Catalonia that has already burned through 16,000 acres with the potential to burn up to 50,000. So, what’s the deal with this European heat wave, and why is Europe baking at 350 until golden brown this summer?
What causes a heat wave?
To the tree-huggers and dedicated recyclers, it seems that the cause of these boiling temperatures present throughout Europe has only one obvious explanation: climate change. BBC News reports that linking one event to climate change directly can be tricky, and instead blames a combination of heat travelling north from Africa and a storm developing over the Atlantic for the dangerously hot weather that has already been linked to two deaths.
However, human-related climate change has been warming the Earth with an average yearly increase in world temperature of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit for the last century, so it appears that extreme heat waves such as the one baking Europe were inevitable and are to be expected as the planet continues to warm. Jeff Berardelli, an American meteorologist, reports that France’s heat wave, among other recent Earth-devastating events like the Great Barrier Reef’s coral bleaching event, would be “nearly impossible” to occur without human-related climate change. In fact, there is an 80% probability that heat waves like this one are directly related to global warming.
With these facts in mind, it’s safe to assume that human intervention is probably responsible for global warming and heat waves boiling Europe, but no true conclusion can be decided upon. Whether classic Saharan heat or an existentially sizzling change in planetary temperature are to blame, France and the rest of Europe are taking extreme precautions to relieve people of the effects of this extreme heat natural disaster.
How is Europe handling the heat?
As a country that generally sees temperatures in the 70’s during the peak of summer, France is enacting creative measures to ensure the safety of citizens and avoid anymore heat-related deaths. CBS reports that French schools are closing and elder care facilities are taking special precautions to monitor the hydration of patients as the country suffers in the wave that appeared unusually early in the summer.
Because most European homes are not equipped with air conditioning to battle extreme temperatures, the city of Paris took to the streets with mist showers to cool citizens. Other countries suffering from the heat, like Germany and Poland, are sending public alerts about the excessive heat advisory to minimize watering lawns and other unnecessary usages of water as supplies of municipal drinking water begin to run low. Parisian inhabitants are even dangerously taking matters into their own hands by illegally opening fire hydrants, a practice known as “street-pooling,” in an attempt to cool down that resulted in the death of one young girl. But is there light at the end of the tunnel?
To prevent a future extreme heat disaster like the European heat wave of 2019, humans need to change their behavior. Without active initiatives from the planet’s inhabitants, we can expect to see an increase in devastating situations like this one and the continuation in Earth’s rising temperature. Until then, extreme heat temperatures are the new normal.