As summer temperatures continue to soar across Europe, authorities are scrambling to contain the damage from what is shaping up to be one of the most intense heat waves in recent memory.
In France, where temperatures have already topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, officials have deployed military personnel and equipment to help fight wildfires that are raging out of control in several parts of the country. So far, the fires have consumed more than 73 square kilometers of forest, including around Arcachon and Landiras.
Temperatures hit 40C in several areas of the south on Friday, including Béziers and Nîmes, and the head of the national firefighters' federation warned there were still two months of summer to go. "The situation is highly complex. Our morale is still good but fatigue sets in fast. That's why we're calling for a target of 250,000 volunteer firefighters," Mr Allione told RMC TV.
On July 18th, wildfires swept through regions in France as the heatwave continues to rise throughout Europe.
The United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office declared its first ever “red warning” for exceptional heat over the weekend. Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency raised its heat alert level to 4, triggering a national emergency. And on Tuesday, the UK broke its national record for the highest temperature ever recorded: 39.1 degrees Celsius, or 102.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Forecasters warn the numbers could climb higher.
The severe heat this week across Europe is unusual for the continent, but it’s not surprising. Scientists have warned for years that more frequent and intense heat waves are one of the most direct consequences of climate change, even in places used to mild weather. While the whole planet has warmed on average by about 2°F since the Industrial Revolution, that small rise in the average is leading to a large spike in extreme temperatures.
Even so, the recent heat is leading scientists to rethink just how quickly extreme temperatures could arrive. But it’s clear that more sweltering summers lie ahead for Europe.
The recent heat wave is exposing Europe’s unique vulnerabilities. Though countries in Europe are wealthy, heat is still a major threat to people and to infrastructure. Europe’s ordinarily mild climate has meant that many homes and businesses have not invested in air conditioning. Fewer than 5 percent of homes across Europe have air conditioning, according to the International Energy Agency.
And compared to people who live in warmer climates, Europeans themselves are also less acclimated to extreme heat. That can mean people miss the warning signs of heat danger. These patterns are why heat waves are often more dangerous in cooler climates; In fact, one of the biggest predictors of the dangers of a heat wave is not how high temperatures get, but how much they deviate from the norm for an area. Europe is also highly urbanized. About 72 percent of European Union residents live in cities, towns, and suburbs. The concrete and asphalt of cities hold heat and amplify extreme temperatures, a phenomenon is known as the “urban heat island” effect.
These vulnerabilities are why heat waves in Europe can quickly escalate into full-blown disasters. In 2003, a massive heat wave swept across Europe, killing an estimated 70,000 people. France was hit particularly hard: 15,000 people died, many of them elderly residents in urban areas who did not have air conditioning. The 2003 disaster spurred changes in how European countries prepared for and respond to the extreme heat.
This year's Tour de France has been marked by extreme heat, with record-breaking temperatures plaguing the race from start to finish. The heat has been a major factor in the race, forcing riders to take extra precautions and leading to several stages being shortened or canceled due to the dangerous conditions.
As a heatwave sweeps across Europe, the July 7th cobbles stage hit a high of 78 F (25.5 C) and the temperature is continuing to rise.
The heatwave that has swept across Europe this summer is one of the most intense on record, and it shows no signs of abating. In France, where the Tour de France is currently taking place, temperatures have regularly topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and in some cases have even reached 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
The high temperatures have taken their toll on both riders and equipment. At one stage, several riders had to be treated for dehydration and heat exhaustion, while others were forced to abandon the race altogether. In addition, many teams have struggled with tires melting in the extreme heat, leading to multiple flats and mechanical issues.
The hot weather isn't just affecting the Tour de France; it's also having an impact on everyday life across Europe. In Germany, for example, authorities have imposed speed limits on highways due to fears that asphalt could soften and buckle in the extreme heat. And in Italy, farmers are struggling as crops wilt in fields that are parched from lack of rain.
With no end in sight to the hot weather, it's clear that this year's Tour de France will be one remembered as much for its brutal conditions as for its sporting drama.
The Tour de France is currently in the midst of its third and final rest day after 15 days of hard racing. The heatwave that has swept across Europe has caused temperatures to soar, with the Met Office issuing its first-ever red extreme heat warning. This has had an impact on the Tour, with organizers having to spray melt-prone portions of the route with copious amounts of water to keep the pavement cool and intact.
With riders battling against searing temperatures, it is perhaps no surprise that this year's Tour has been one of the most difficult in recent memory. A rider broke his neck after colliding with an unaware spectator, a stage was temporarily halted by climate protesters blocking the route, and a dramatic battle for the leader's yellow jersey ensued.
Organizers have come under fire for their decision to use water to cool the pavement, given that wildfires are raging across Europe. However, they have defended their actions, stating that they are necessary for the safety of riders. With only six stages remaining, it remains to be seen how much further impact the heatwave will have on this year's Tour de France.
Rain also caused chaos for the Tour de France during the grand departure in Denmark.
Fans in Denmark awaiting the grand departure amidst heavy downpours.
The 2021 Tour de France was supposed to start in Denmark, but the event was postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rescheduled race got underway on Friday, but the conditions were far from ideal as heavy rain made the roads slick and treacherous.
Several riders crashed during the opening stage, including Swiss rider Stefan Bissegger who went down twice. Despite the spills, Bissegger managed to finish the stage and even held onto his spot in the overall standings.
Not everyone was so lucky, however, as several other riders failed to complete the stage due to crashes or mechanical issues. The bad weather also caused some spectators to stay home, though there were still plenty of diehard fans braving the elements to catch a glimpse of their favorite riders.
In the end, it was Belgian rider Yves Lampaert who took home victory in the opening stage, while two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar finished third. The wet conditions will no doubt be a factor over these next three weeks as riders battle for position on some of cycling's most iconic stages.
Crashes caused multiple riders to abandon this year's Tour de France or fail to make the time restrictions. One of the most serious incidents occurred on stage 5 when a rider collided with spectators lining the cobbled street. The rider, Daniel Oss, was knocked off balance and suffered a broken neck in the collision. He was forced to retire from the race.
The results of a crash on Stage 2.
Another crash occurred on stage 16 when a number of riders went down after clipping a hay bail that had been placed on the road. One of the riders involved in this crash was Primoz Roglic, who was forced to pull out of the race with injuries. This is a big blow for his teammate Jonas Vingegaard, who is currently leading the race.
With all the surmounting factors, fans have openly written on Twitter about how a lot of the action is occurring in the back of the event wherein riders either struggle to make the time cut or continue riding to the finish in honor of the event even though they are too far behind to make the time cut.