Southwestern Europe is beset by intense heat

This intense heat wave, very early for the season, should continue at least until Sunday in southwestern Europe, according to Météo-France forecasts.

More than 18 million French people are affected by this heat wave which produces temperatures exceeding 40° Celsius during the day and hovering around 30° Celsius at night.

Meteorologists expect many heat records to be broken in this part of Europe over the weekend.

To cope with the intense heat which could last several more days, the authorities have declared the alert level red vigilance in a dozen departments of the country.

This is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France since 1947underlines Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo-France in an interview with AFP.

According to him, this is clearly a climate change marker.

This is the fourth time that the French authorities have had to activate these emergency measures intended to protect the population from the intense heat since the historic heat wave of 2003, which killed more than 15,000 people in the country.

Forest fires in Spain

Thousands of hectares of fields and forest have been ravaged by fire this week in Spain, where a mass of intense heat from the African continent is causing major droughts.

Photo: AP/Alvaro Barrientos

This spring heat wave does not leave any respite either for the Spaniards, struggling with several forest fires due to the drought fueled by exceptional heat levels, which have reached peaks of 43° Celsius in places, in recent days in the country.

The biggest fires are raging in the Sierra de la Culebra, in the northwest of the country, where 5,000 to 7,000 hectares of forest have already gone up in smoke, the Castile and Leon region announced on Friday.

In the northeast, Catalonia must also fight several fires, the largest of which is raging near Baldomar, in the province of Lleida, where the fire has destroyed more than 940 hectares of forest, according to the Catalan regional government.

This heat wave, which has been raging for almost a week in southwestern Europe, is also causing severe droughts in northern Italy, particularly in Lombardy.

Crops under threat in Italy

The regions of northern Italy risk losing up to half of their agricultural production due to drought, while the level of lakes and rivers worries in the country, warned Friday the Italian confederation of farmers.

The Po, which is the longest river in the country and one of the main sources of fresh water, is currently at its lowest level in 70 years – with areas completely dry – and it is only June, stresses for its part the federation of Italian public service companies Utilitalia.

The Po River, which crosses northern Italy from east to west, is almost completely dry in places. Unheard of for over 70 years.

Photo: dpa via getty images / PIERO CRUCIATTI

The total damage (should) already exceed one billion euros (C$1.37 billion)notes the Confederation of Farmers (CIA) in a press release, explaining that the lack of water threatens the production of corn and soybeans, the supply of which is already partly compromised by the war in Ukraine.

Faced with the possibility of losing half if not all of the crops, the CIA asks the Italian government to implement a emergency irrigation to save crops and the construction of infrastructure to collect and store rainwater.

The governors of Piedmont and Lombardy, where part of agricultural production depends on the Po, said they would ask the government to declare a state of natural disaster due to the drought.

For scientists, these intense and early heat waves and droughts are direct consequences of global climate change.

It’s time to act: every action countswarned Friday the administrative secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Ibrahim Thiaw, during a conference in Madrid on the occasion of the World Day for the fight against drought.

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