U.S. Summer heat wave packs bag and heads to Europe for holiday UPDATED 8/20

By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:14 PM GMT on August 18, 2012

U.S. Summer heat wave packs bag and heads to Europe for holiday: UPDATED 8/20: A new national all-time heat record has been broken for the Czech Republic today (August 20)

After touring the U.S. for two months (since mid-June) the great heat waves of the summer of 2012 have apparently decamped for Europe after a recent visit to the interior of the U.S. Southwest. Record-breaking heat is now forecast to impact the Iberian Peninsula and other portions of Western Europe in the coming week. In fact, a short but very intense heat wave has already afflicted portions of the continent earlier this month.UPDATE for August 20th at end of article.

European Heat Wave of August 6-11

A brief period of intense heat, caused by a southwesterly flow of air from the Sahara Desert, baked a swath of Europe from Spain to the Ukraine on August 6-11.


The Madrid Royal Observatory in Retiro Park recorded its hottest temperature on record with a 40.6°C (105.1°F) reading on August 10th. Records here go back to 1860 (the Madrid Airport location has measured hotter temperatures before with 42.2°C/108°F in August 2003). Elsewhere in Spain all-time records on August 10 and 11 were achieved at:

Cordoba with 46.3°C/115.3°F (downtown location)

Alcoi with 44.1°C/111.4°F

Toledo with 43.1°C/109.6°F

Vitoria (Basque region) with 42.4°C/108.3°F

Pamplona with 41.4°C/106.5°F

Salamanca with 40.9°C/105.6°F

The hottest location of all in Spain was Mengibar, Jaen Province with 47.1°C (116.8°F), a location about 55 miles east of Cordoba). This was just 0.1°C (about 0.2°F) short of the possible Spanish national record of 47.2°C (117.0°F) set at Murcia on July 4, 1994. However, the Spanish heat record is open to debate. A possibly reliable figure of 50°C/122°F was reported from Berja on July 18, 1978. Many sources also claim that Seville also reached 50°C/122° on August 4, 1881. During the recent event Seville recorded 45.9°C/114.6°F.

A NCEP map of temperatures at the 2 meter (6 feet) above surface elevation in degrees Fahrenheit for August 11 during the peak of the heat wave in Spain. Map from WeatherBELL models.


Rome’s Ciampino Airport reached 39.4°C (102.9°F) on August 7th, short of the Rome record of 40.6°C (105.1°F) set in August 1956 and August 1981. Libertinia was the country’s hot spot with 45.4°C (113.7°F) on August 6th (and well short of the Italian national record of 48.5°C (119.3°F) set at Catenanuova, Sicily on August 10, 1999.


Kiev hit 37.6°C (99.7°F), short of their all-time record of 39.4°C (102.9°F). The highest reading observed in the country was 40.4°C (104.7°F) at Mohyliv-Podil’s Kyi. The Ukrainian national record of 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Lukhansk on August 12, 2010 still stands.

Other national maximum temperatures include the following:


43.5°C (110.3°F) at Rousse on August 7. National record is 45.2°C (113.4°F) at Sadovo on August 5, 1916.


42.5°C (108.5°F) at Bacau on August 7. National record is 44.5°C (112.1°F) at Ion Sion on August 10, 1951.


42.8°C (109.0°F) at Podgorica on August 7th. National record is 44.8°C (112.6°F) at Podorica on August 24, 2007.


39.2°C (102.6°F) at Kisinev on August 7. National record is 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Slobozia on July 21, 2007.


42.0°C (107.6°F) at Gjirokastra on August 8. National record is 43.9°C (111.0°F) at Kucove on July 18, 1973.


41.8°C (107.2°F) at Mostar on August 7. National record is 43.1°C (109.6°F) at Mostar on August 24, 2007.


40.8°C (105.4°F) at Gradiste on August 7. National record is 42.8°C (109.0°F) at Ploce on August 5, 1981.


36.7°C (98.1°F) at Zamosc on August 6 and 7 was an all-time record for this site. National record is 40.2°C (104.4°F) at Proszkow on July 29, 1921. Warsaw reached 34.6°C (94.3°F) on August 6, short of their all-time record of 36.4°C (97.5°F).

Heat Returns to Western Europe: August 17-?

Forecast model for 850 hPa temperatures valid or Sunday August 19th.

Another surge of excessively warm air has begun to impact much of southern and Western Europe as I write this. On Friday, August 17th, temperatures in Spain topped out at 43.1°C (109.6°F) at Arroyo del Ojanco, Jaen Province and Madrid (Airport location) reached 38.6°C (101.5°F). Madrid again topped 100°F on Saturday, August 18th with a 38.2°C (100.6°F) reading.

The beaches of Spain and France are overwhelmed with people seeking relief from the intense heat. Still from IBT news video.

The core of the heat now seems to be settling over France where Paris (Orly Airport) topped 100°F on August 18th (38.2°C/100.8°F). This has been the city’s hottest day since the heat wave of 2003 when a reading of 102°F was recorded (the all-time record for Paris is 40.4°C/104.7°F set in 1949). The warmest temperature reported in France on August 18th was 42.3°C (108.1°F) at Montgivray. The official national all-time heat record for France appears to be 42.7°C (108.9°F) at Le Luc-en-Provence on July 7, 1982, however temperatures as high as 44.1°C (111.4°F) were recorded during the great 2003 heat wave on August 12th at St. Christol les Ales.

In Belgium it was 36.5°C (97.7°F) at Kleine Brogel, 35.5°C (95.9°F) at Antwerp (just short of their all-time record of 36.1°C/97.0°F), and 34.5°C (94.1°F) in Brussels. Belgium’s all-time national heat record is 38.8°C (101.8°F) set at Uccle on June 27, 1947.

UPDATE: Sunday, August 19th, did not produce quite as extreme temperatures as Saturday although the heat was worse in some locations, especially in the higher altitudes of the Alps such as at the famous ski resort of Chamonix, France where an all-time record of 34.4°C (94.3°F) was achieved. Madrid failed to reach 100°F (38°C) on Sunday but it endured its hottest minimum temp on record when the low was just 25.8°C (78.4°F). In Andorra a temperature of 37.9°C (100.2°F) was recorded at Roc St. Pere, just 0.6°C short of the Andorran national record of 38.5°C (101.3°F) measured at Andorra La Vella on July 16, 2005. On Monday, August 20, the core of the heat seems to be over Germany (where temperatures up to 39°C/102°F have occurred) and the Czech Republic (where Prague has smashed its all-time record with 39.6°C/103.3°F today--old record was 37.8°C/100.0°F). Both countries (and others) are setting many all-time heat records. I will do an update on August 21st (Tuesday) to review these records.

BREAKING NEWS: A new national all-time heat record has been broken for the Czech Republic today (August 20) with a reading of 40.4°C (104.7°F) at Dobrichovice. This just edges out the former record of 40.2°C (104.4°F) from Uhrineves set on July 27, 1983.

KUDOS: Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for much of the temperature data reported above.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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5. bell32ndst
6:38 PM GMT on August 21, 2012
Sounds like Europeans are going to be installing air conditioning in the future. I hope they go with hydrocarbon refrigerants instead of the flouro-chloro-carbon compounds that are still prevalent in the US (though they will start being displaced this year). While hydrocarbons are flammable, the risk is small, as are the amounts, and they are more efficient. They also don't contribute to the depletion of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Their lifetime in the wild is weeks to months.

The reason they haven't been used before? Lobbying. This will end the monopoly of AC techs in servicing AC units, with a drop in their monopoly pricing, as well as eliminate a market for chemical firms.

Note that these hydrocarbons aren't just the commercial kind you purchase for torches or barbecues. They are very precise and pure mixtures designed to get the required thermodynamic properties in order to be good refrigerants.

Almost all refrigerators around the world, and particularly in Europe, have been running with hydrocarbons as refrigerants for over a decade.

This also makes sense for car AC, since it is a foregone conclusion that the refrigerant leaks out of those on a yearly or biyearly basis. The US is behind the curve on auto AC using hydrocarbons, with their use banned in many states. The increased efficiency of hydrocarbon refrigerants makes them better than the old R12, and way beyond the wimpy R134a that replaced it.

Best of all, hydrocarbon refrigerants are drop in replacements in existing AC systems, with no modification required. They can even mix with existing refrigerants, though that decreases their efficiency somewhat.
Member Since: November 29, 2010 Posts: 133 Comments: 34
4. maxcrc
12:44 PM GMT on August 21, 2012
The most incredible thing is this hot air comes from Southern Morocco and it has "circumnavigated" Europe from Spain to France and than from Benelux to Germany and most of Mitteleuropa.
In the past historical heat waves, the configurations were different. It's unusual (and perhaps unique) to have a record breaking situation in the Czech Republic for air of Moroccoan origin.
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 269
3. SnowKlaus
7:32 PM GMT on August 20, 2012
Heat wave sloshed into Germany on Sunday (19th of August) to reach 39.2C in SW Germany, just 1.0C short of the Germany national record set back in August 2003. SE Germany is still getting it on the 20th, so will update this when final numbers are in (see below). Big difference compared to 2003: this is essentially a two-day heatwave vs. the two-week siege of 2003.
Here is a link to the list of German stations above 35C (95F) on Sunday: http://www.wzforum.de/forum2/read.php?2,2492360,24 92890#msg-2492890

Sure enough, the heatwave crested at 39.8C (just under 104F) in Dresden-Hosterwitz on the 20th, less than 1F below the all-time German record. It also set a new all-time high for Dresden where the climate record goes back to 1812!
Member Since: February 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
8:55 PM GMT on August 18, 2012
hotter and hotter
faster and faster

glad the heat is done

bring on the fall
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 197 Comments: 64934

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.