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What the weather is doing to Europe

France 24, Aug 3

Hot air from Africa is bringing a new heatwave to Europe, prompting health warnings about Sahara Desert dust and exceptionally high temperatures that are forecast to peak at 47 degrees Celsius in some southern areas.

The torrid weather meant that public services were put on alert in Spain and Portugal. A hot air mass was moving northward from Africa, authorities said, warning that the mercury could peak at 47 degrees Celsius this weekend in the southern Portuguese town of Beja.

Portuguese authorities issued a nationwide health warning, including for dust from the Sahara Desert. Warnings were also issued for 40 of Spain’s 50 provinces.

France’s national weather service, Météo-France, published data on Thursday showing last month was the country’s third-hottest July since 1900. The average temperature of 23.2 degrees Celsius was 2.5 degrees above normal.

A new heatwave set to last into the middle of next week has 66 French departments on orange alert, with only the northwestern edge of the country due to maintain maximum temperatures under 35 degrees and some southern areas set to surpass 40 degrees.

Farmers across the continent were battling the effects of drought, so the European Union offered to speed up funds to help them cope. German farmers have already asked their government for €1 billion in financial aid to help cover losses from this year’s poor harvest.

Italy issued red alerts – the highest of three warning levels – across the centre and north, indicating widespread health risks in cities including tourist magnets Rome, Florence and Venice.

Heatwaves have become common in Italy, and between 2005 and 2016 some 23,880 people died in 23 Italian cities of heat-related problems, a report by the region of Lazio found.

Forecasters expect Italy’s heatwave to break over the weekend with powerful thunderstorms across much of the country.

World War Two munitions

In the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, police warned people not to touch the grenades, mines and other weapons that have emerged from the mud on the banks of the River Elbe since the heatwave caused a drastic reduction in the water level.

In just a few weeks, police have found 24 pieces of World War Two munitions – dumped at the end of the conflict by Russian, Western and German forces – near the water, compared with 12 in the whole of last year.

Specialist technicians are working overtime to make them safe, in some cases defusing them on site.

Shrinking glacier

Up north in Sweden, the country’s official tallest point is set to change amid record temperatures. Scientists said a glacier on Mount Kebne, the Scandinavian country’s highest peak at 2,111 metres is melting and is no longer Sweden’s tallest point.

Gunhild Rosqvist, a Stockholm University professor in geography, said the glacier lost four metres of snow in July alone as Sweden endured record temperatures that triggered dozens of wildfires, even in the Arctic Circle.

In neighbouring Finland, a supermarket came up with a novel way of escaping the heat. The K-Supermarket said on its Facebook page that patrons hoping to cool down could sleep overnight in its air-conditioned store in Helsinki.

Homes in Finland are designed to handle the extreme cold and damp typical of the Nordic region, not the recent high temperatures.

'No swimming'

In eastern Europe, Poland endured unusually high temperatures up to 34 degrees, forcing its power plants to go into emergency mode to increase output due to the wide use of air conditioning and electric fans.

In the streets of Warsaw, the Polish capital, authorities placed cooling water installations around and advised people to stay indoors. Dozens of the country’s Baltic Sea beaches have “no swimming” warnings due to health risks from algae blooms.

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