Even under the shade of large umbrellas at Terraza Colon cafe in the heart of Madrid, it was hot. The tables were empty.
“June is one of the best months for us, so a heat wave right now is no good for business,” manager Daniel Benito, 42, said as he helped a waitress rearrange large fans and sprayed the floor with water to try and cool down the space. “It’s just impossible to plan and run a business with such extreme weather.”
The temperature in Spain’s capital neared 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) Tuesday, and the heat wave is forecast to envelop Europe in the coming days. Southern Spain could top 42 degrees Wednesday, with most of the country approaching 40 degrees, according to the country’s Aemet weather agency. Such high temperatures usually come later in the summer. Southern winds also are bringing Saharan dust up north, worsening air quality and reducing visibility.
A high-pressure system is hovering in the atmosphere over Europe, trapping the heat in an effect sometimes called a “heat dome.” People in Paris, Rome and London all were prepping for torrid conditions.
“The heat wave will intensify throughout the week,” said Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. “It will be getting worse every day.”
The scorching weather provides another example of the impact climate change will have as countries’ reliance on burning fossil fuels makes the planet hotter. It’s the second time in less than a month that temperatures surpassed 40 degrees in Spain, an unusual heat for this time of the year, with the nation’s meteorological agency issuing dozens of warnings across the country. In Cordoba, the maximum temperature could reach 43 degrees Celsius, the agency said.
“Every heat wave in the current climate is enhanced or boosted by climate change,” Rantanen said.
The heat could add pressure to already volatile commodities markets. Power prices in France and Germany climbed as the temperatures drive demand for electricity to run air conditioners. European natural gas prices jumped Wednesday as the heat wave boosts demand for cooling, further tightening supplies.
There’s also a risk that grain yields will be curbed even more across western Europe, particularly in France, Spain and Portugal, according to Paris-based analyst Agritel. Harvests of soft-wheat are approaching, and fields in top producer France already were threatened by one of the hottest and driest springs of the past century, curbing conditions at a time when global supplies are tight because of the war in Ukraine. The grain is a few weeks away from harvest.
In Paris, air conditioners were flying off the shelves as residents prepared for temperatures that could hit 37 degrees Celsius on Saturday, according to Meteo France.
Alan Charles Angel was stacking white boxes filled with air conditioners behind a prominent display near the entrance of a Boulanger appliance store in central Paris, replenishing the stock after purchases the day before.
“We put in a big order when the forecast first called for a heat wave, so we have plenty,” he said, pulling out units packed under a stairwell and then heading off to a storeroom to get more.
Parts of France have been suffering from a drought that could worsen during the heat wave and increase the risk of wildfires.
In Italy, temperatures could reach 40 degrees Celsius in coming days, according to the Meteo Giuliacci weather forecast center. Temperatures that high can be dangerous to vulnerable people, including the elderly and small children.
Giancarlo Penza of the Sant’Egidio community is in charge of a program that assists thousands of octogenarians across Italy, particularly in Rome.
“We are already making hundreds of phone calls every day, as we always do as soon as we receive heat wave alerts from the local authorities,” Penza said. “We don’t wait for the old people to ask for help. We call them over and over to make sure they are fine, they have enough food or medicines when it is too hot to go out.”
Britain also will get a bout of unseasonably high temperatures. Temperatures in the southeast likely will peak at 33 degrees Celsius on Friday, according to the UK’s Met Office.
“This is the first spell of hot weather this year, and it is still unusual for temperature to exceed these values in June,” said Dan Rudman, deputy chief meteorologist at the Met Office. “Many areas will also see some warm nights, with temperatures expected to be in the mid to high teens overnight.”
But relief may be swift. Starting Saturday, a cold front moves in from the north that may bring rain and cooler temperatures.
—With assistance from Flavia Rotondi, Megan Durisin and Albertina Torsoli.