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Historic June heat wave smashes records in Europe

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/20/2022 Ian Livingston
A man cools off in The Trocadero Fountains across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Saturday. © Stefano Rellandini/AFP/Getty Images A man cools off in The Trocadero Fountains across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Saturday.

A punishing early-season heat wave that tormented large swaths of Europe over the weekend is easing after delivering hundreds of record high temperatures.

Temperatures between 104 and 110 degrees (40 to 43 Celsius) were common from Spain to Germany. The most extreme temperatures compared to normal focused in France, where monthly and even all-time records were broken.

Numerous events across France were canceled in the unprecedented early-season heat, especially in the southwestern part of the country. In Paris, parks remained open during the night so people could seek relief from hot and typically non-air-conditioned homes.

Residents of Berlin packed the area’s lakes in an attempt to cool off. Amid the high temperatures, Germans were asked to preserve electricity due to the energy crunch caused by the war in Ukraine, although air-conditioning is also relatively rare in the country.

The combination of a heat plume off the north African deserts and a low pressure off Europe’s west coast pumping that hot air north fueled the heat wave’s intensity.

The heat was accompanied by poor air quality and a number of large wildfires.

Spain devastated by wildfires amid record-breaking heat wave

The pre-summer surge of heat marked the second in Europe since May as human-caused climate change increases the frequency and intensity of excessively high temperatures. While Europe baked, parts of the United States endured abnormally hot weather at the same time.

Given the persistent heat and near-solstice sunshine, sea surface temperature in the Mediterranean Sea have spiked. Near-shore values around 5 degrees Celsius (10 Fahrenheit) above normal help ensure that any cooling from hot air passing over water is minimal while probably harming marine life.

A hot Mediterranean Sea amid a heatwave in the region. (Copernicus E.U.) A hot Mediterranean Sea amid a heatwave in the region. (Copernicus E.U.)

The heat wave got underway in the Iberian Peninsula last week before surging east through the weekend. In Spain, it has been called the hottest heat wave on record so early in the year.


Video: Much of Spain swelters in early summer heat wave (Associated Press)

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Selected Saturday heat records

Following numerous locations surpassing 104 degrees (40 Celsius) Friday, the heat wave peaked in France on Saturday, when more than a dozen all-time records were set.

According to data from Météo-France, the countrywide temperature average rose to 81.3 degrees (27.4 Celsius) on Saturday, the warmest so early in the year back to at least 1947.

Among other places, all-time records were reached in Biarritz, Rochefort Saint-Aignan and Tarbes, with 109.2, 105.1 and 102.6 degrees (42.9, 40.6, and 39.2 Celsius) respectively. This was in addition to several locations reaching all-time records Friday.

A high temperature of 110.1 degrees (43.4 Celsius) recorded in Pissos on Saturday was only 0.1 degrees Celsius below the all-time record there.

At least 200 monthly records were also topped across the country, including 107.4 degrees (41.9 Celsius) in Cazaux, 104.9 degrees (40.5 Celsius) in Bordeaux and 104.5 degrees (40.3 Celsius) in Dax.

In Spain’s Basque Country, where temperatures were scorching for most of last week, San Sebastián reached 111 degrees (43.9 Celsius), demolishing the old all-time record, as seen in the graphic below from climatologist Daniel Argueso.

Major heat also made inroads to Germany Saturday, as temperatures surpassed monthly records in Wolfach with 97.7 degrees (36.5 Celsius) and Müllheim at 97.5 degrees (36.4 Celsius).

Selected Sunday heat records

Heat reached its apex Sunday in Germany and neighboring countries. Multiple stations set all-time record highs, with many more setting monthly marks.

A sample of Sunday’s heat records includes:

  • Cottbus, to the southeast of Berlin, set a new all-time high for any month of 102.6 degrees (39.2 Celsius). Dresden also reached that mark.
  • Husinec, in the Czech Republic, rose to 102.2 degrees (39 Celsius), which was the hottest June day on record in the country.
  • Poland set a new June record, when it hit 100.9 degrees (38.3 Celsius) in Slubice.
  • Switzerland had its hottest June temperature, as it hit 98.4 (36.9 Celsius) in Beznau. It may have been hotter in other locations.
  • Chambéry, France, reached 98.1 degrees (36.7 Celsius), one of several monthly records in the region’s northeast on Sunday.
  • Feldkirch, Austria, made it to 97.7 Degrees (36.5 Celsius), the hottest in June for the state of Vorarlberg.
  • At the edge of Europe, temperatures of 114.4 degrees (45.8 Celsius) and 114.1 degrees (45.6 Celsius) in Cizre and Silopi, Turkey, were close to June records.
  • A station in eastern France at Besançon recorded an all-time warm overnight low of 73.4 degrees (23 Celsius).

Somewhat cooler weather over the weekend in Spain allowed more firefighters to help with efforts to control a massive wildfire in the country’s northwest. Nearing 80,000 acres, the fire is the largest on record in the country since at least 2004. It is one of many burnings in the country amid a fire outbreak intensified by the crushing heat.

A firefighter from the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME) tackles a forest fire near Artazu, Navarre province in Spain Sunday. © Vincent West/Reuters A firefighter from the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME) tackles a forest fire near Artazu, Navarre province in Spain Sunday.

Other fires were burning across Europe, including several in France and Germany. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes in the German state of Brandenburg due to the blazes. But the fires were largely under control on Monday after heavy rainfall, authorities said.

While there is a break in the worst of the heat for now, a new surge is expected in Central and Eastern Europe later this week. It’s not expected to be as intense, but temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees above normal are possible in some locations nonetheless.

Rick Noack contributed to this report from Paris and Loveday Morris from Berlin.

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