Spain, Portugal swelter as heat wave kills 3 people
Spain and Portugal faced another exceptionally hot day Saturday as a heat wave that has killed three people in Spain threatened to raise temperatures to record levels.
Large areas of Portugal are on red alert for heat, including the capital, Lisbon. Temperatures will reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the south-central Alentejo region, according to the country’s weather agency, IPMA.
Forecasters at the UK Met Office have said temperatures in the Iberian Peninsula this weekend “could beat the all-time continental European record of 48C,” which is a little over 118 degrees Fahrenheit, before the mercury starts to dip.
That record was set in the Greek capital, Athens, in July 1977. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the record for Spain is currently 47.3 Celsius, while for Portugal it’s 47.4 Celsius.
The Spanish Ministry of Health on Friday confirmed three deaths this week due to the hot weather.
A 41-year-old man suffered heatstroke while working on the highway close to Murcia, in southeastern Spain, on Wednesday. A 78-year-old man was found unconscious in his garden on Thursday due to heatstroke and later died in hospital.
On Friday, a middle-aged man in Barcelona also died as a result of heatstroke after being taken to hospital in critical condition.
Spain’s weather agency, Aemet, has issued red warnings for heat in parts of the southwestern Extremadura and Andalucia regions Saturday, while swathes of the rest of the country are under orange or yellow alerts for heat.
The hottest temperature recorded in Spain on Friday was 44.7 Celsius in Badajoz, in Extremadura, while the mercury hit 44.5 Celsius in Seville, in Andalucia, according to CNN forecasters. The historic city of Evora, capital of Portugal’s Alentejo region, reached 44.1 Celsius that day.
The heat wave coincides with peak vacation season in Europe. Travelers have been warned to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day and be aware of the risks of heatstroke, particularly for children and the elderly.
Other parts of Europe have also been experiencing unusually hot, dry weather this summer, bringing drought conditions to some areas.
Some places in Sweden have had their driest May-to-July period on record, according to its meteorological agency, and a number of weather stations have recorded only 10% to 15% of their normal rainfall. Wildfires have raged in recent weeks even within the Arctic Circle as forests become tinderboxes.
Scientists at Stockholm University say that a mountain glacier has melted so much in the heat that it will no longer be the country’s highest point. Kebnekaise’s south peak shrank by four meters (about 13 feet) between July 2 and July 31, as snow and ice melted by an average of 14 centimeters (about 5½ inches) a day.
The latest measurement showed that the south peak was only 20 cm higher than the mountain’s rocky north peak, which stands at 2,096.8 meters (nearly 6,880 feet) above sea level.
“The result of the hot summer will be a very big loss of snow and ice in the mountains,” Professor of Geography Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist is quoted by the university as saying. “The forecast is that the south peak will be lower than the north peak from the beginning of August.”
According to the UK Met Office, the recent hot temperatures in Scandinavia have led to sea surface temperatures in the Baltic Sea rising well above 20 Celsius, as much as 5 or 6 degrees above average.
Britain has also had a prolonged spell of hot weather with little rain, leaving vegetation in much of the country parched. Temperatures reached 33 Celsius in west London on Friday but are forecast to drop going into next week.