France swelters, braces for heatwave sweeping Spain, Portugal

France swelters, braces for heatwave sweeping Spain, Portugal

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Less than a month after the previous heat wave, mercury levels started to rise in France on Monday with the country braced for a heatwave this week that will also scorch Spain and Portugal, where the temperature exceeded 42 degrees Celsius in some parts.

The south of France could experience possible peaks of 39 degrees Celsius on Tuesday as global warming causes increasingly hot summers.

The intensity and duration of the heatwave are still difficult to predict, according to experts at the French national meteorological service, Météo France, but by Monday, the mercury topped 30 degrees Celsius in much of France. Southwestern France and the Rhone Valley area are expected to see temperature cross 36 and 38 degrees Celsius from Tuesday.

The first orange heatwave alerts could be launched on Wednesday for some areas in coordination with health officials, according to French authorities.

Temperatures could hit 39C in some parts of France on Tuesday, and the heatwave should reach its peak between Saturday and next Tuesday, according to Meteo-France.

The latest heatwave has been caused by “an axis of high pressure between Morocco, France and the British Isles”, which brings up very hot air from south of the Mediterranean, said Matthieu Chevallier from Meteo-France, during a special press briefing on Monday.

Potentially ‘exceptional’ heatwave in Spain

In Spain, people baked with the temperature in the central town of Candeleda hitting a stifling 43.3 degrees Celsius shortly after 6pm local time, according to Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET.

The mercury meanwhile hit 42.4 degrees Celsius in the southern city of Seville.

The southwestern cities of Badajoz and Merida also saw temperatures of 42 degrees.

AEMET forecast 46 degrees in Badajoz on Thursday and Friday with Seville predicted to swelter in 45 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday.

“This heatwave really has the potential to be exceptional,” said AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo.

Temperatures set to soar in Portugal

In neighbouring Portugal temperatures topped 44 degrees over the weekend, fuelling wildfires and vast smoke clouds which were visible in the capital Lisbon.

Firefighters brought the largest blaze under control on Monday after it had burned through swathes of the central municipality of Ourem, local officials said.

While temperatures eased somewhat in Portugal on Monday they were expected to soar again in the coming days with 44 degrees forecast for the southeastern city of Evora.

“In the coming days we will experience conditions of maximum risk,” said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

“The slightest lapse in vigilance could result in a fire of significant proportions.”

Heatwaves have become more frequent due to climate change, scientists say. As global temperatures rise over time, heatwaves are expected to become more intense.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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