France has been affected since Tuesday by a heat wave arriving from the Maghreb via Spain, which first affected the south-west of the country before spreading.
Temperatures between 30 and 35°C were recorded on Wednesday across the southern half of the country, and the heat wave will widen further.
Météo-France expects maximum values of 34 to 38 degrees there on Thursday, with possible peaks of up to 40 degrees in the shade locally.
And the weather will be scorching on Friday over a large part of the country, the heat wave extending to the northern regions and intensifying further in the West and the South. At the hottest of the afternoon, Météo-France predicts 36 to 39 degrees in these regions, and locally there again peaks of 40 degrees.
Attributed to global warming, heat waves are increasing around the world, especially in France where this episode is unprecedentedly early, after those of 2017 and 2005 which began on June 18.
This wave “has an aggravating effect on the dryness of the soil” after a particularly dry spring and winter and accentuates “the risk of forest fire”, explained to AFP Olivier Proust, forecaster at Météo-France.
This is the scenario facing neighboring Spain, which has been suffocating for six days, with temperatures that in places exceed 40 degrees.
The most worrying fire broke out near Baldomar, in the province of Lérida (Catalonia, north-east), where the fire has already destroyed 500 hectares of forest, but has “the potential” to spread to 20,000 hectares, according to the Catalan regional government.
– Foggers –
At this stage, no one has been evacuated in this region, but the authorities have confined certain residential areas as a precautionary measure.
In Lérida, temperatures of up to 41ºC are expected on Thursday, according to the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Aemet), which also predicts temperatures above 40ºC in Badajoz (southwest) and Zaragoza (northeast).
In Catalonia, two other forest fires were active Thursday morning, in Solsonés and Tierra Alta, with in both cases nearly 300 hectares burned, according to the Catalan government.
Another fire broke out in the Sierra de la Culebra, in Zamora (center).
This heat wave, unusual at this stage of the year in Spain, has resulted since last weekend in an explosion of temperatures throughout the country, with peaks of up to 43 degrees. According to Aemet, it should last until Saturday.
Spain, which this year experienced its hottest May since the beginning of the century, according to the meteorological agency, has already gone through four episodes of extreme temperatures in the last ten months.
The multiplication of heat waves, particularly in Europe, is a direct consequence of global warming, explain the scientists, with greenhouse gas emissions increasing both the intensity, duration and frequency of these phenomena.
Faced with temperatures that put the bodies to the test, some companies adapt by modulating the schedules, especially in the construction industry.
In France, communities are also increasing measures to relieve residents. In Bordeaux (south-west), foggers are installed in places known to be “ovens”. And as in Lyon, the municipality has extended the opening hours of parks and gardens.