Europe’s early heatwave a ‘foretaste of future,’ WMO says

(Update 1: Adds details of desertification summit in Madrid)

Madrid Desk, Jun 17 (EFE).- An unseasonal and intense European heatwave that has spiked temperatures up to levels normally not seen until July and August is a “foretaste of the future,” the World Meteorological Organization warned on Friday as Spain and France braced once more for sweltering conditions.

A system of extremely hot and stable air moving from North Africa has already broken records in Spain, parts of which have simmered in temperatures of over 40C (104F) this week.

The heatwave is the most intense to hit the country in early to mid-June in decades and is not due to snap until Sunday, when cooler weather moves in from the North Atlantic.

The country’s weather agency Aemet has issued rare red alerts for extreme temperatures of up to 42C in the Ebro valley running through the northeastern regions of La Rioja, Aragon and Navarre.

The high temperatures mean almost the entire country is at an extreme risk of wildfires, Aemet’s spokesman Rubén del Campo said.

The heatwave is due to intensify in interior parts of the country on Friday, including the capital region Madrid, which could see the mercury rise above 40C.

The intense heat in Spain is being compounded by an influx of Saharan dust, which is contributing to the adverse conditions, the WMO added.

Neighboring France, which already witnessed its hottest and driest May on record, according to the WMO, is preparing for the heatwave to spread up from the south.

Its national weather agency Meteo-France said it was the earliest heatwave since 1947.

Highest-tier red alerts for extreme temperatures were issued for 12 departments of western France while 25 departments were under second-level amber alerts with daytime temperatures expected to range between 35-38C during the afternoon

France’s heatwave is expected to peak by June 18.

Belgium was on alert for maximum temperatures of 35C, while the United Kingdom is also due to feel the effects of the European heatwave with temperatures of 32C expected in London, although no warnings are in place.


In the grips of a heatwave, the Spanish capital on Friday hosted the central act for the United Nations’ World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which was attended by prime minister Pedro Sánchez and addressed by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

In a video message, the UN chief warned that three-quarters of people could be living with drought by the middle of this century.

“Half the world’s population is already coping with the consequences of land degradation, with women and girls paying the highest price. We can and must reverse this downward spiral,” he added.

Sánchez said that climate change had boosted the frequency of droughts, adding that Spain was one of the worst-hit regions. EFE


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