July 19, 2022 – Record-breaking temperatures are being recorded across the U.S. and Europe, prompting heat wave warnings about potential health risks.
In the U.S., 40 million Americans are under heat alerts in the Southwest, Plains, and Mississippi Valley, which are expected to expand into the Southeast this week, according to Axios.
Early Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for several states through Wednesday and Thursday evenings, including parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Heat index values could rise above 110 F.
“This warning is reserved for only the hottest days of the year and is issued when temperatures are expected to rise to dangerous levels,” according to the alert for Arizona.
“Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities,” the alert said.
Temperatures could reach 114 F near Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon. Day hikers should stay out of the canyon and remain in campgrounds between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the alert said.
In parts of Oklahoma, temperatures could rise to 105 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a heat index up to 111.
“When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening,” the Oklahoma alert stated.
Drink water, stay inside, and check on frail relatives and neighbors during the hottest parts of the day, the National Weather Service said in several alerts.
“Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances,” according to the alerts.
The National Weather Service has also issued several red flag warnings, pointing out the chance of extreme fire conditions. Wildfires could grow and spread rapidly in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas through Wednesday.
A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, high temperatures, and dry vegetation can lead to out-of-control wildfires. In these states. Temperatures could reach as high as 115, with wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour.
“Any activities that could start a wildfire should be avoided,” according to the warnings. “Burning of any kind is strongly discouraged and may be unlawful in some counties.”
Firefighters are already battling 90 large fires in about a dozen states, according to the latest update from the National Interagency Fire Center. Nearly 60 fires are burning in Alaska, followed by seven in Texas, including one that has spread across 500 acres, Axios reported.
California also has four major fires, and Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah have two each. Montana, Nebraska, Washington, and Wyoming have one fire each.
U.K. Heat Wave
Britain is also facing a major heat wave this week, breaking record after record, according to The New York Times. Before noon on Tuesday, a thermometer in Surrey read 39.1 C, or 102.4 F, marking the highest level on record in the U.K.
About 2 hours later, the provisional temperature at Heathrow Airport reached 40.2 C, or 104.4 F. If confirmed, it would be the first time the temperature in Britain has surpassed 40 C.
The heat wave has prompted major health concerns since many households don’t have air conditioning and the temperatures haven’t dropped enough overnight to allow for cooling, the newspaper reported. Monday night was the warmest on record.
The extreme heat has caused disruptions to daily living for a country that isn’t equipped to handle such high temperatures. Public transportation, many offices, and some schools are being affected. Officials have urged many people to work from home.
Network Rail, which operates the country’s rail system, issued a “do not travel” warning for trains that run through areas covered by a “red” warning, stretching from the north of London to Manchester and York.
Trains can be at risk from high heat because rails and overhead wires may not be built to handle extremely high temperatures, the Times reported. The London Underground, for instance, doesn’t have air conditioning and has suspended some routes. Other train services have put limits on speed to avoid overheating.
Heat-Related Deaths in Europe
Unusual heat waves have led to major health concerns across Western Europe, particularly in Portugal and Spain. More than 1,100 people have died in the two countries during the past week as record-breaking temperatures move across Europe, according to ABC News.
Portugal has reported 659 heat-related deaths, and Spain has reported 510 deaths. Officials have predicted thousands of more deaths to come this month in France, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K.
The heat wave in Europe could last for several weeks and has already caused major wildfires in France, Portugal, and Spain. The fires have destroyed thousands of acres of land and displaced thousands of people from their homes.
In southern France, more than 14,000 people have been forced to evacuate as fires spread across more than 27,000 acres, ABC News reported. Firefighters in Spain are battling 30 fires, including a major one in Mijas that threatens to burn more than 22,000 acres and has prompted 3,000 residents to flee.
Wildfires are occurring earlier in the season, ending later in the year, and becoming more frequent due to climate change, the European Union said in a report last year.
“Climate change is aggravating the situation, making countries more prone to wildfires and increasing the intensity of such events,” the report said.