Tens of millions of people in the United States battled dangerously high temperatures on Saturday as record heat forecasts hung over Europe and Japan, the latest example of the threat posed by global warming. A massive heat wave stretching from California to Texas was expected to peak as the US National Weather Service warned of an “extremely hot and dangerous weekend”.
Daytime highs are forecast to be between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the West. In Arizona, one of the hardest hit states, residents face a daily endurance marathon against the sun.
The state capital Phoenix has recorded 16 straight days above 43 degrees Celsius, with temperatures hitting 111 degrees Celsius on Saturday en route to an expected 115 degrees Celsius. California’s Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, is likely to see new highs on Sunday, with the mercury possibly reaching 130F (54C).
Temperatures already reached 48°C at midday on Saturday and even overnight lows could exceed 38°C. Authorities are sounding the alarm and advising people to avoid outdoor activities during the day and to be careful of dehydration.
At a construction site outside Houston, Texas, a 28-year-old worker who gave his name only as Juan was helping to finish a wall in the sweltering heat. “Just drinking water makes me dizzy, I want to throw up because of the heat,” he said.
The Las Vegas Weather Service warned that assuming high temperatures naturally come with the area’s desert climate is “dangerous thinking! This heat wave is not typical desert heat.” Southern California is battling multiple wildfires, including one in Riverside County that has burned more than 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) and prompted evacuation orders.
Further north, the Canadian government reported that wildfires have burned a record 10 million hectares this year, with more damage expected as the summer drags on.
Forecast of all-time highs
In Europe, Italy faces predictions of record highs at the weekend with the health ministry issuing a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna and Florence.
The meteorological center warned Italians to prepare for “the most intense heat wave of the summer and also one of the most intense on record”.
The temperature in Rome is likely to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) by Monday and as high as 43 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, breaking the record of 40.5 degrees set in August 2007.
The islands of Sicily and Sardinia could wither in temperatures of up to 48C, the European Space Agency warned potentially the highest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.
The Acropolis of Athens, one of Greece’s main tourist attractions, will close for the third consecutive day during the hottest hours on Sunday.
In France, high temperatures and subsequent drought are threatening the agricultural industry, earning Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau criticism from climatologists on Saturday for dismissing conditions as “normal for summer”.
This June was the second hottest June on record in France, according to the national meteorological agency, and several areas of the country are under heat warnings from Tuesday.
Spain is in for a bit of a reprieve as its weather agency warned on Saturday that a new heatwave would bring temperatures above 40C to the Canary Islands and southern Andalusia from Monday to Wednesday.
Heavy rains make flood like situation
Parts of eastern Japan are expected to reach 38-39C on Sunday and Monday, with the weather agency warning temperatures could attack previous records. Ferocious monsoon rains have reportedly killed at least 90 people in India after scorching heat.
The Yamuna river flowing through New Delhi has reached a record high, threatening low-lying neighborhoods in the megacity. Major floods and landslides are common during monsoons, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.
Morocco was expected to experience above-average temperatures this weekend, with highs of 47C in some provinces more typical of August than July, raising concerns about water shortages, the weather service said.