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Heat waves plague the Northern hemisphere

Smoke from fires are seen on Tuesday in Wennington, England. A series of grass fires broke out around London amid an intense heatwave.Leon Neal/Getty

Heat-related deaths. Record temperatures. Raging wildfires. Melting airport runways.

Scorching heat waves are plaguing Europe, Central Asia, and the United States, offering yet more evidence of the suffering the climate crisis could bring.

Britain recorded its hottest temperature ever on Tuesday, according to the country’s national weather service, the Met Office, with a recording of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) at Coningsby in eastern England. It broke a record set just hours earlier — a recording of 40.2 Celsius (104.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at Heathrow Airport.

Before Tuesday, temperatures had never exceeded 38.7 Celsius (101.7 Fahrenheit), a record set in 2019. By Tuesday afternoon, temperatures in 29 locations across the country had broken the record.


The United Kingdom also appears to have recorded its warmest night on record from Monday into Tuesday. In some areas, provisional readings showed that temperatures never fell below 25 degrees Celsius, beating the previous overnight high of 23.9 Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit), reached in August 1990.

Amid the shocking heat on Tuesday, Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said in a recorded statement that such temperatures in Britain would have been “virtually impossible” if it weren’t for the climate crisis, according to his agency’s research.

Thanks to the climate crisis, the planet has already warmed by 1.1 degree on average, and there’s ample evidence that heat waves are becoming longer and more severe. Without urgent action to kick fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gas pollution, the impacts could get even worse.

The blanket of heat has wreaked havoc across the United Kingdom. Wildfires broke out in the London area, engulfing homes.

Travel disruptions abounded. Many train services were canceled and others ran at slower speeds due to concern that the heat could cause tracks to buckle. On Monday, flights at Luton airport were also stopped for hours after heat damaged a runway.


Most homes in the United Kingdom don’t have air conditioning; some estimates put the percentage as low as 5 percent. (More than 90% of homes in the United States have AC.) It’s a sign of how unprepared the nation — known for cooler temperatures and rain — is for climate change. According to Belcher, if the world fails to urgently curb emissions, he said, the country could see heat like this every three years.

The heat wave has plagued countries across the European continent. Germany and Belgium have also issued temperature alerts. And Spain and Portugal are blanketed in deadly heat as well. Between July 10 and July 16, there were 510 heat-related deaths in Spain, according to the Carlos III Institute And Portugal’s Health Ministry said Saturday that there were 659 heat-related deaths over the past week.

Central Asia is facing astoundingly high temperatures, too, according to the Washington Post. Temperatures reportedly reached a mind-boggling 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.62 degrees Fahrenheit) in Kazakhstan on Monday.

Other parts of the world have scorching heat in store, too. Temperatures are expected to soar in China this week, according to the China Meteorological Administration. Last week, temperatures topped 107 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the country.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, more than 100 million people are facing excessive heat warnings or heat advisories, the the Weather Prediction Center said.


One third of the United States’ population is under heat advisory or excessive heat warning today and tomorrow. And more than 80 percent of the US population will experience forecasted high temperatures above 90 degrees in the next week.

In Boston, temperatures could top 90 degrees every day this week and into the weekend. The worst of the wave is expected on Wednesday and Thursday.

As climate change progresses, experts project that periods of extreme heat in Massachusetts will increase. From 1971 to 2000, the average summer in the state saw four days over 90 degrees. By mid-century, climate scientists say the state may have 10-28 days over 90 degrees each year. By the end of the century, Massachusetts could experience between 13 and 56 days of extreme heat each summer, depending on what steps are taken now to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

High temperatures aren’t the only climate disaster afflicting the globe right now. As of Sunday, extreme rainfall and floods in China killed 18 people and forced thousands to evacuate their homes. The Horn of Africa is experiencing a persistent drought, pushing some 10 million people into hunger. Meanwhile, a megadrought is still upon the Western United States, leaving Lake Mead — which supplies water to 25 million people — at historically low levels.

Though it may seem as dangerous as a hurricane or snowstorm, research shows that extreme heat is the deadliest form of extreme weather in the US. So be careful out there.


Dharna Noor can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @dharnanoor.