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Second Major Heat Wave This Summer Smashes Records Across Europe

Climate
People cool off in and around a large water pool at Trocadero, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower on July 25 in Paris, France. Owen Franken / Corbis / Getty Images

Europe's second extreme heat wave of the summer has lived up to predictions, smashing records across the continent.


Paris recorded its all-time highest temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius, BBC News reported. Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands all endured record highs on Wednesday only to see them broken again on Thursday, AccuWeather reported. Thursday's all-time highs measured 41.8 for Belgium, 42.6 for Germany and 40.7 for the Netherlands, the first time the country heated to 40 degrees or more.

The UK, meanwhile, experienced its hottest ever July temperature of 38.1 degrees Celsius, BBC News reported. This is only the second time that the UK has experienced a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the UK's Met Office tweeted.


The heat has proven potentially deadly, as five deaths recorded in France may have been linked to the heat. It also interfered with transportation. Trains in Britain ran at reduced speeds to keep rails from buckling, and a Eurostar traveling from Belgium to London actually broke down Wednesday, forcing passengers to wait in the heat for three hours.

"Everything was suddenly down: no air-conditioning, no electricity," passenger Paul De Grauwe said, as The New York Times reported. "I have never been so hot in my life."

The high Paris temperatures also threatened Notre-Dame cathedral, which was damaged in a fire in April.

"I am very worried about the heat wave because, as you know, the cathedral suffered from the fire, the beams coming down, but also the shock from the water from the firefighters. The masonry is saturated with water," Chief Architect Philippe Villeneuve told Reuters, as AccuWeather reported.

The Met Office noted that heat waves in Europe have gotten both more likely and more extreme because of the climate crisis, BBC News reported.

"What we have at the moment is this very warm stream of air, coming up from northern Africa, bringing with it unusually warm weather," the Met Office's Dr. Peter Stott told BBC 5Live. "But without climate change we wouldn't have hit the peaks that we're hitting right now."

Other scientists agreed.

"This. Is. Climate. Change." University of Oxford climate scientist Karsten Haustein tweeted.

Heat waves like this week's cause increased discomfort for Europeans because the continent has not embraced air conditioning as the U.S has. While more than 90 percent of U.S. homes have an air-conditioning system, fewer than 10 percent of European homes do, The New York Times reported.

That may change with more frequent heat waves. The head of a Munich-based air-conditioning installation company said he had seen steady growth from year to year. But more units would also mean more climate change.

"By cooling off the inside and warming the outside, we are feeding a disastrous vicious circle," Brice Tréméac, the head of Paris-based research institution the Laboratory of Cold, Energy and Thermic Systems, told The New York Times.

For now, however, Europe can expect to see some relief Friday as temperatures cool. But the warm air could wreak further havoc as it moves towards Greenland, where it could cause record melting of its ice-sheet, Reuters reported Friday.

"According to forecasts, and this is of concern, the atmospheric flow is now going to transport that heat towards Greenland," World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis said in a UN briefing in Geneva Friday. "This will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet. We don't know yet whether it will beat the 2012 level, but it's close."

So far this July, the ice sheet has lost the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of ice through surface melting. The hot weather could also further melt Arctic sea ice, which was close to its lowest extent on record as of July 15.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.