#Europe and the UK on Fire

Temperatures in the UK and Europe are on track to set all time records today. Headlines on BBC are “Warnings of Heat Apocalypse (link)”, which for once are actually not far off …

Click to embiggen. Expected high temperature in degrees F for the ignorant colonists.

France has been suffering for several days, with not just high temperatures but extensive fires in the Southwest of the country. Portugal and Spain also have extensive fires, here is one as observed by the EU’s Sentinel satellite system:

European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery of Castilla y Léon , in western Spain.

London is under its first ever “Red Extreme Heat Warning (link)” and is on track for records today. The overall high temperature record is the UK us 38.7F, or 101.7. That record will almost certainly be broken somewhere in southern England today. But records are broken all the time, given the fact our record of observations is relatively limited. So just how unusual is this? Let’s take a closer look.

The observatory at Greenwich has been collecting data since 1841. That’s a pretty good record, but it’s only 180 years. Using data from 1991 to 2020, the average high in July is 74.8F, the record is 95.5F, the all time record, set in August 2003, is 99.5F. The previous record was set in 1990 at 95F. So if the temperature does hit 106F as forecast then both the July and all time records will be shattered. So this is a pretty unusual event. Is it related to climate change? Well, that’s a more complicated question. The temperatures are likely higher due to anthropogenic (human caused) factors. Pointing the finger at any given day or event and screaming “J’ACCUSE!” is really tricky (and scientifically unsound). What we can say is that events like this are more likely, and we will see more of them going forward. That’s not a good thing.

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