The German weather service forecast that the focus of the heat would shift eastward, after the country recorded the hottest day of the year so far on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 103.1 degrees (39.5 Celsius) in the country’s west.
Cities in Belgium and the Netherlands also logged temperatures above 100 degrees on Tuesday, just shy of records set in a July 2019 heat wave, according to weather historian Maximiliano Herrera.
Meanwhile, firefighters in France, Spain, Greece and Britain battled wildfires exacerbated by the soaring temperatures. Authorities ordered a hospital in the Athens area to evacuate.
The London Fire Brigade declared a major incident on Tuesday as firefighters battled several major fires across the city, from Wembley in the north to Croydon in the south. Scores of residents were forced to flee as houses, vehicles and grassland were engulfed in flames. Clouds of smoke billowed over parts of the River Thames.
Tinder-dry conditions and extreme heat have sharply increased the chances of wildfires spreading, according to the European Union’s Copernicus climate monitoring service. A sizable part of Western Europe in “extreme fire danger,” it said Tuesday.
Along with increased carbon emissions from the wildfires, Copernicus scientists are warning that “very high levels” of ozone pollution caused by the heat wave could affect Northern and Western Europe in the coming days.
At low altitudes, ozone is one of the main elements of urban smog, according to Mark Parrington, a senior Copernicus scientist.
“The potential impacts of very high ozone pollution on human health can be considerable both in terms of respiratory and cardio-vascular illness,” he said in a statement.
As some experts pointed to the role of human-influenced climate change in the record-shattering temperatures, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres agreed to a “moment for nature” on Tuesday.
“Our ways of life — based on producing, consuming, discarding and polluting — have brought us to this dire state of affairs,” Guterres said in a video message.
“But, since human activities are at the root of this planetary emergency, that means we also hold the key to the solutions. Now is the time to transform our relationship with nature and chart a new path,” he added.