An extraordinary heat wave spreads across France

(Paris) 35 to 39°C, even 40°C in places: an exceptional and early heatwave will hit France by the weekend, a foretaste of a future climate with more human and economic consequences that will become more expensive.

Posted at 6:36 am
Updated at 8:00 a.m

Amélie BOTTOLLIER-DEPOIS
Media Agency France

With the arrival of hot air from the Maghreb over Spain already suffocating, the south-west will be hit first, with temperatures ranging between 34 and 36C, according to Météo-France on Tuesday. Highs above 40C are expected locally in this region later in the week.

This heat wave is also expected to reach the northern half, with between 30°C and 35°C on Friday and Saturday.

Heat waves, a clear sign of global warming, are multiplying and intensifying around the world.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne assured that she was “fully mobilized” and on Tuesday announced a meeting of prefects and regional health authorities to ensure “all the equipment is in place”.

The government will set up a fund of 500 million euros for the “renaturation”, reported its spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire. In the face of “this significant, strong, early, unprecedented wave at this time”, the executive “calls for vigilance and takes measures to accelerate preparation for the consequences of climate change,” she said of the outcome of the Council of Ministers.

“We are already ready,” assured a spokesman for SNCF, while every summer the railway company has to monitor overhead wires and rails preparing oars for fear of intense heat and store hundreds of thousands of bottles of water in the hope that passengers will not stuck in the sun in the middle of nowhere.

The country has already experienced several exceptional temperatures in June. The absolute record for mainland France is from June 2019, however with 46°C in the shade in Vérargues (south) it was June 28th.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen a heatwave so early and we could reach 40C so early in the season for the first time,” Olivier Proust, meteorologist at Météo-France, told AFP on Tuesday.

An aggravating early character for organisms. “The length of the day is longer, the cooler time is shorter,” he notes and also refers to the consequences for the schools that are still open, which are not the case in July and August.

This heatwave comes after a particularly hot and dry spring that caused drought across much of France, threatening crops and creating conditions conducive to fires.

36 departments have implemented water use restrictions.

“Summer of All Dangers”

And while Météo-France also expects a hot and dry summer, the spokesman for the French fire brigade association Eric Brocardi warned of a “summer of all dangers”.

On Monday, the Gard (south) has already seen several major fires, including the burning of 60 bungalows at one of Europe’s largest campsites.

The strong heat forecast is particularly risky for the elderly, vulnerable or young children, but also for outdoor workers.

In Occitania, companies have introduced special measures on public construction sites, with flexible working hours, more frequent breaks, bottled water for workers, etc.

In cities, impermeable surfaces store solar energy. And at night, these buildings, paved streets and sidewalks release the accumulated heat into the air, turning urban centers into veritable radiators.

Météo-France describes this episode as a “heat wave” corresponding to high temperatures for several consecutive days (the national temperature index must reach 25.3 °C for at least one day during the episode and be higher than 23.4 °C for at least three days and never fall below 22.4°C once).

However, it is likely that the “heat wave” threshold, which takes into account the danger that day and night heat pose to the population, will be reached in several departments on Thursday.

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