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Heat Waves Sweeping Certain Regions Likely to Peak by Week’s End

Written by on August 22, 2023

The World Meteorological Organization reports scorching heat waves that are causing deaths and discomfort for millions of people around the world will likely peak in certain regions by the end of the week.

“It is the end of the meteorological summer at the end of August … the projections that we have got at the moment, certainly for central parts of Europe, is that these extreme temperatures should peak later this week,” said Clare Nullis, WMO spokesperson.

“But I do not have a crystal ball for what is happening in the rest of the season,” she said Tuesday.

In the meantime, a forecast of extreme weather patterns gripping some parts of the world show that the heat waves, which have had a devastating impact this summer, principally in Greece, Italy, and Spain, have caught up with Switzerland with a vengeance.

WMO reports that heat in Switzerland has reached new heights with much of the country under a level-three amber alert or “the top-level red alert — as with the case of Geneva — until Thursday.”

On Monday, Meteo-Suisse reported that Switzerland has a new altitude record for the freezing point of 5,298 meters or 17,381 feet. That means ice will not form on mountains below that altitude.

WMO glacier expert Matthius Huss said Monday that the expected altitude rise in the Alps during this ferocious heat wave is another blow for glaciers that have already strongly suffered this year.

“Snow coverage is only present on the highest elevations,” he added.

WMO reports that temperatures in much of the southern half of France are forecast to reach a peak of 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) in the Drome region. It says heat alerts have been issued for parts of France, as well as Italy, Croatia, Portugal, and neighboring countries.

FILE - Burnt sunflowers are seen in a field during a heatwave in the suburbs of Puy Saint Martin village, southeastern France, Aug. 22, 2023, where the temperature reached 43°C.
FILE – Burnt sunflowers are seen in a field during a heatwave in the suburbs of Puy Saint Martin village, southeastern France, Aug. 22, 2023, where the temperature reached 43°C.

While no statistics are yet available, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said the death toll related to this summer’s heat waves is likely to be significant.

“There was a study published on July 10 by researchers from European health institutes,” he said. “And in this study, there is an estimate that more than 61,000 people died from heat-related causes across 35 European countries in summer 2022.”

Nullis noted that weather conditions in Europe are “not uniform.”

“We have been talking a lot about heat,” she said. “Parts of Europe, in particular Scandinavia, have seen unusually heavy rainfall.”

Meanwhile, she noted that much of the central and southern U.S. also was struggling under blazing hot temperatures. “There are multiple excessive heat warnings being issued in the central plains states and Texas,” she said.

While the European heat waves are in the process of winding down, Nullis said “tropical activity is ramping up as we near the traditional peak of the Atlantic hurricane season,” which is September 10, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.

According to the U.N. National Hurricane Center, three tropical systems in the Atlantic — Gert, Franklin, and Harold — are of particular concern.

Nullis said Franklin posed risks of flooding to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and Harold threatened to bring very heavy rainfall and the risk of flash flooding to southern Texas, “at a time when Texas is battling extreme heat and drought.”

She said the impact of Hurricane Hilary has now dissipated, but while it was active, Hilary brought record-breaking rainfall to normally arid areas such as Los Angeles and Death Valley, “which saw its all-time wettest day on August 20.”

Dorian Padilla sits in his car as he waits for a tow after he got stuck in the mud on a street Cathedral City, California, Aug. 21, 2023.
Dorian Padilla sits in his car as he waits for a tow after he got stuck in the mud on a street Cathedral City, California, Aug. 21, 2023.

Though the worst of the extreme temperatures and torrential rains may soon be over, Nullis said this was no time to relax.

“You know, we have got the southern hemisphere that will come into play,” she said. “We are already seeing unusual heat in parts of South America. And this is in the early stages of El Nino.”


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