Blistering African heat will roast large swathes of continental Europe in the coming days as hot winds from the Saharan Desert are pulled northwards. The incoming heatwave has sparked an orange weather alert in France and forest fire warnings in eastern Germany. Meteorologists warn several temperature records could tumble as the mercury nears 40C across multiple countries. The worst heat is expected in France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
French officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2003 summer when an estimated 15,000 people died of heat-related deaths.
Air-conditioned shelters have been set up and water bottles will be given to homeless people in street patrols as part of an alert system set up after 2003.
Organisers of the Women’s World Cup, which is being held in France, say matches may be postponed if the weather gets too hot, while there will be official cooling breaks.
French health minister Agnes Buzyn said on Monday: “Everything is ready, in retirement homes, in hospitals, in transports”.
When will temperatures peak? How hot will it get?
The heat has already started to build with highs of 34C reached yesterday in France.
Temperatures will peak between Wednesday and Friday across western and central Europe, according to Accuweather which forecast the heatwave a month ago.
Daytime highs could reach 40C in France and Germany – the current June national temperature records are 41.5C in France and 38.C in Germany.
MeteoFrance said: “This heatwave could be remarkable for how early it has come as well as its intensity.”
Accuweather meteorologists say high humidity levels mean it will feel more like 47 degrees and there will be little respite at night.
Rome is forecast to reach 36C and Berlin could see 37C, while the eastern state of Brandenburge is at risk of forest fires in the coming days.
The UK and Scandinavia will escape the most extreme temperatures but London is forecast to reach 31C on Saturday.
Will there be multiple heatwaves this summer?
In its May forecast, Accuweather stated “long-duration heat waves” will grip Europe on and off throughout the summer.
The weather forecaster wrote on its website: “Even when the most intense heat waves wane, it will be brief and temperatures will remain near or above normal before returning to dangerous levels once again.
“The hottest locations throughout Portugal and Spain will see multi-day heat waves with temperatures peaking at or above 43 C (110 F).”