EEven in the shade of the large parasols of the Terraza Colon café in the heart of Madrid, it was hot. The tables were empty.
“June is one of the best months for us, so a heat wave right now is not good for business,” manager Daniel Benito, 42, said as he helped a waitress rearrange large fans and doused the floor with water to try to cool down. space. “It is simply impossible to plan and run a business with such extreme weather conditions.”
The temperature in the Spanish capital approached 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, and the heat wave is expected to envelop Europe in the coming days. Southern Spain could top 42 degrees on Wednesday, with most of the country approaching 40 degrees, according to the country’s weather agency Aemet. These high temperatures usually arrive later in the summer. Southerly winds also carry Saharan dust northward, deteriorating air quality and reducing visibility.
A high-pressure system hovers in the atmosphere over Europe, trapping heat in an effect sometimes called a “heat dome.” Residents of Paris, Rome and London were all bracing for scorching conditions.
“The heat wave will intensify throughout the week,” said Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. “It’s going to get worse day by day.”
The scorching weather provides another example of the impact climate change will have as countries’ reliance on burning fossil fuels makes the planet hotter. It is the second time in less than a month that temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees in Spain, unusual heat for this time of year, with the national weather agency issuing dozens of warnings across the country. In Cordoba, the maximum temperature could reach 43 degrees Celsius, the agency said.
“Every heat wave in the current climate is enhanced or stimulated by climate change,” Rantanen said.
The heat could add pressure to already volatile commodity markets. Electricity prices in France and Germany have soared as temperatures boost demand for electricity to run air conditioners. European natural gas prices jumped on Wednesday as the heat wave boosts demand for cooling, further tightening supply.
There is also a risk that cereal yields will be further reduced in Western Europe, particularly in France, Spain and Portugal, according to Parisian analyst Agritel. The soft wheat harvest is approaching and the fields of the leading French producer were already threatened by one of the hottest and driest spring of the last century, dampening conditions at a time when global supply is tight due to the war in Ukraine. The grain is a few weeks away from harvest.
In Paris, air conditioners were flying off the shelves as residents braced for temperatures that could reach 37 degrees Celsius on Saturday, according to Météo France.
Alan Charles Angel was stacking white boxes full of air conditioners behind a prominent display near the entrance to a Boulanger home appliance store in central Paris, replenishing stock after purchases the day before.
“We placed a big order when the forecast was first calling for a heat wave, so we have a lot,” he said, stepping out of the packed units under a stairwell, then heading to a warehouse to get more.
Parts of France are suffering from a drought which could worsen during the heat wave and increase the risk of forest fires.
In Italy, temperatures could reach 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days, according to the weather forecast center Meteo Giuliacci. Such high temperatures can be dangerous for vulnerable people, including the elderly and young children.
Giancarlo Penza of the Community of Sant’Egidio is responsible for a program that helps thousands of octogenarians across Italy, especially in Rome.
“We already make hundreds of phone calls every day, as we always do whenever we receive heat wave alerts from local authorities,” Penza said. “We don’t wait for older people to ask for help. We call them again and again to make sure they are okay, have enough food or medicine when it is too hot to go out.
Britain will also experience abnormally high temperatures for the season. Temperatures in the south east are likely to peak at 33 degrees Celsius on Friday, according to the UK Met Office.
“This is the first warm spell this year, and it is still unusual for the temperature to exceed these values in June,” said Dan Rudman, deputy chief meteorologist at the Met Office. “Many areas will also see warm nights, with temperatures expected to be in the mid-to-teens overnight.”
But relief can be quick. Starting Saturday, a cold front from the north could bring rain and cooler temperatures.
—With help from Flavia Rotondi, Megan Durisin and Albertina Torsoli.
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