Europe gripped by heat and battered by storms

• August 2, 2013
European heatwave

\ Europeans have been trying to find relief from the intense heat which has gripped the continent this July. Creative Commons: 2010

Europe’s erratic weather continued this week, as the intense heat experienced over the last fortnight was briefly interrupted by storms, which battered the continent bringing hailstones the size of tennis balls to Germany and washing out large parts of Britain with floods.

Cities across Europe have seen near recorded temperatures over July. In Poland, temperatures reached the mid-30s Celsius across much of the country, reaching 37°C in Lodz – the nation’s third-largest city – just 5 degrees shy of Poland’s all-time high set in 1921.

The situation was similar across other European cities. In Italy, Florence and Bologna both topped 38°C last weekend, as 14 cities in the country were placed on red alert – the highest possible alarm – due to dangerous levels of heat.

Similarly in Hungary, 15 countries were put on red alert for extreme heat, with the capital Budapest reaching 37°C, while further south in Serbia, temperatures in Belgrade reached 38°C at the start of the week.

Neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina saw highs of 40°C in the city of Mostar.

The UK was also hit with the hot weather, with London experiencing the hottest day for 7 years – reaching 34°C – and the country experiencing its longest spell of nation-wide hot weather since 2006.

Despite the brief break in the heat this week, the upcoming weekend could once again see heatwaves return. In Italy, both Florence and Bologna are expected to surpass 40°C, and even temperate northern countries could feel the heat, with temperatures expected to reach the high 20s as far north as Stockholm, Sweden.

A cold front swept across the continent, arlier in the week, bringing a brief reprieve from the heat, but in turn brought its only problems. In the UK thunderstorms brought almost a month’s worth of rain to parts of Worcestershire, and deluges brought ‘devastation’ to Tormorden and Walsden in West Yorkshire as heavy rain and flash floods wrecked homes and roads. The UK’s Environment Agency issued over ver 30 flood alerts across the country.

Meanwhile hailstones larger than tennis balls were reported across parts of southern Germany on Sunday, just a day after large hailstones pummeled the northern German city of Hannover.

Scientists have shown how climate change creates conditions for periods of prolonged extreme weather over Northern Europe, and brings more rainfall and flooding events as well as heatwaves.

A report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in February examined 32 years of extreme weather events, and linked them to the way the jet stream has changed its normal pattern.

Instead of wandering around the northern hemisphere between the Arctic and the tropics in a series of gentle and continuously moving waves caused by differences in land and sea temperatures, the jet stream appears occasionally to get stuck.

The result is that we can get different sorts of extreme weather for a few weeks. Last year it was a great deal of rain – this year it has been hot sunshine.

The European Environmental Agency has also warned of the effects of climate change on the continent, saying the impacts were already evident.

In a report last year, the agency said the past decade was the warmest on record across Europe, while the cost of damage from extreme weather events had risen as the continent has become more vulnerable.

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