The Full Scoop on Europe’s Historic Onslaught of Heat

July 26, 2019, 6:22 PM EDT

Above: Storks stand in their nest as the sun rises in Lebus, eastern Germany, on Friday, July 26, 2019, the third day of a record-shattering heat wave in Germany and neighboring countries. Image credit: Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP.

Temperatures on Friday soared above 40°C (104°F) in Germany for an unprecedented third day in a row—and that’s just one in a mind-boggling swarm of all-time heat records set across western and northern Europe this week. At least five nations saw their highest temperatures on record, and in some cases the old national records were toppled at multiple locations and on consecutive days. The hottest air is now being shunted northeast toward higher latitudes, where it will inevitably cool, but it’s possible that one more country—Norway—will set an all-time high on Saturday.

One thing is clear: the chances are exceedingly small that this week’s European heat wave could have been so strong without the temperature platform being raised by greenhouse gases from fossil fuel use. Several attribution studies have shown that odds of such a heat wave have been boosted many times over by human-produced climate change, as we discussed in our last post.

Even a seemingly minor change in average temperature, such as the 1°C rise observed globally over the last century, makes the most extreme heat events much more probable—and the greater the extreme, the bigger the proportional change, as shown in the illustration embedded below.

There’s bitter irony in the fact that the birthplace of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change experienced the “long tail” effects of human-produced climate heating in full force this week, while much of the United States—which has announced its intention to leave the agreement—basked in unusually cool weather for July. The two hardly balance each other out, although some observers have implied as much. In fact, July has a very good shot at being Earth’s warmest month on record.

Fortunately, there is no sign yet that mortality from this week’s heat will be anywhere on par with the tens of thousands of deaths incurred in Europe’s devastating heat wave of 2003. Since that disaster, many European cities and nations have adopted techniques that have saved many lives during heat waves in the United States and elsewhere, including cooling centers, temporary air conditioners, and outreach to vulnerable residents. Paris implemented just such a multipronged plan during the June heat wave.

Overall, this summer is providing a major test of how well heat-adaptation efforts are keeping up with the ever-increasing risk of dangerous heat due to human-induced climate change. It may be weeks before we know how well the adaptations are succeeding this summer in Europe, because time is needed to assemble and analyze mortality statistics and compare them with typical numbers for this time of year.

People cool down in the fountains of the Trocadero gardens in Paris on Thursday July 25, 2019
Figure 1. People cool down in the fountains of the Trocadero gardens in Paris on Thursday July 25, 2019, when a new all-time high temperature of 42.6°C (108.7°F) hit the French capital. In the background is the Eiffel Tower. Image crecit: AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh.

Standouts from a hellish week

Below are some of the most amazing facets of this week’s European heat. In this article, we’ll list the records first as they were measured in degrees Celsius (which are used throughout the world outside the United States), followed by the Fahrenheit conversions.

—Thursday was the hottest day ever observed at hundreds of locations where tens of millions of people live. An all-time heat record is a rare thing at any long-term observing site where temperatures have been measured for decades. On Thursday, virtually all of the primary weather stations in Belgium and the Netherlands set all-time records. In Germany, at least 139 locations saw all-time highs, representing a large chunk of the nation’s 400-plus observing sites, according to meteorologist Michael Theusner. And in France, at least 70 locations recorded all-time highs on Thursday, as compiled by international weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera.

—Some of the all-time records were set by large margins. The Montsouris observing site in Paris reached 42.6°C (108.7°F), which broke the city’s 72-year-old all-time heat record by an incredible 4°F. In far northern France, Lille broke its all-time record by more than 5°F, hitting 41.5°C (106.7°F).

—One of the oldest weather observing sites on Earth had its hottest day on record. The Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, England, has been making regular temperature measurements since 1815. On Thursday, the observatory hit 36.5°C (97.7°F), breaking the all-time high of 35.1°C (95.2°F) set on August 19, 1932, and August 3, 1990. The new Radcliffe record was confirmed in an email from Stephen Burt, author of the definitive book Oxford Weather and Climate Since 1767.

Figure 2. A painting of the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, England, as viewed from the southeast circa 1814, just before daily temperature measurements began. Thursday, July 25, 2019, was the hottest day ever recorded in the observatory's 200-plus years of temperature monitoring. Image credit: R. Ackerman, A History of the University of Oxford, 1814, Green Templeton College, Oxford.

—Three nations set new all-time highs on Wednesday and then promptly broke them on Thursday. What’s more, a good number of cities piled onto the national breaking of heat records. Up until Tuesday, no city in Germany had been hotter than the 40.3°C (104.5°F) recorded in Kitzingen on July 5 and August 7, 2015. At least eleven German locations beat that mark on Thursday, as shown below, and at least ten places in the Netherlands were hotter on Thursday than anything observed in the entire country prior to Wednesday.

Below is a summary of the national all-time heat records that were set either once on Thursday or twice on Wednesday and Thursday. Most of these records are preliminary and subject to verification by national weather agencies that check on the placement and performance of the weather sensors involved.

Belgium

Wed. 7/24:  40.6°C (105.1°F) at Kleine Brogel Air Base, beating 38.8°C (Liège, July 2, 2015)
Thurs. 7/25:  41.8°C (107.2°F) at Begijnendijk
—The new Belgian record was confirmed by the nation’s Royal Meteorological Institute and by
veteran Belgian weather watcher David Dehenauw.

Germany

Wed. 7/24:  40.5°C (104.9°F) at Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base, beating 40.3°C (Kitzingen, July 5 and August 7, 2015)
Thurs. 7/25:  42.6°C (108.7°F) at Lingen
—On Friday, the German weather service confirmed the Lingen reading from Thursday. This station is not ideally located, according to Theusner. However, as detailed below, ten other stations in Germany recorded temperatures on Thursday that were above the all-time national high from Wednesday of 40.5°C. The warmest of these are the 41.2°C (106.2°F) readings at Tonisvort and Duisburg, more than 1°F above the national record set on Wednesday. Thus, there is no doubt that Thursday brought the hottest temperatures in Germany’s recorded weather history.

Luxembourg

Thurs. 7/25:  40.8°C (105.4°F) at Steinsel, beating 40.5°C (Remich, August 8, 2003)
—Temperature records in Luxembourg extend back as far as 1838.

Netherlands

Wed. 7/24:  39.3°C (102.7°F) at Eindhoven, beating 38.6°C (Warnsveld, August 23, 1944)
Thurs. 7/25:  40.7°C (105.3°C) at Gilze en Rijen

United Kingdom

Thurs. 7/25:  38.7°C (101.7°F), Cambridge Botanic Garden, beating 38.5°C (Faversham, August 10, 2003) 
—Temperature records at the Cambridge Botanic Garden extend back to 1871.
 

Tourists lean on a concrete wall as they seek cooling in the shade in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Thursday, July 25, 2019.
Figure 3. Tourists lean on a concrete wall as they seek cooling in the shade in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Thursday, July 25, 2019. It was the hottest day ever recorded in Amsterdam, with a high of 36.3°C (97.3°F). The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute issued an official warning due to the heat, advising residents of the capital city to stay inside. Image credit: Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images.

Thursday’s heat by the numbers

Below is a preliminary sampling of Thursday’s all-time highs. All of the stations have at least 40 years of recordkeeping, and many have records going back a century or more. A few additional all-time local records occurred on Friday in Scandinavia, and more can be expected on Saturday. See our last post for a roundup of Tuesday and Wednesday’s all-time highs. Many thanks go to Maximiliano Herrera, Etienne Kapikian (Meteo-France), French climatologist Jérôme Reynaud, and Michael Theusner for compiling and furnishing these records.

People ride their horses on the beach in De Haan, Belgium, on Thursday, July 25, 2019
Figure 4. People ride their horses on the beach in De Haan, Belgium, on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Belgium experienced a code-red extreme heat warning on Thursday as temperatures reached the hottest levels ever observed in the nation. Image credit: AP Photo/Francisco Seco.

Belgium

Begijnendijk 41.8°C (107.2°F)*
   *national record
Beitem 40.7°C (105.3°F)
Beitem 40.7°C (105.3°F)
Schaffen 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Charleroi 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Antwerpen 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Chievres 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Semmerzake 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Brussels 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Koksijde 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Beauvechain 40.1°C (104.2°F)
Uccle 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Florennes 39.0°C (102.2°F)
Ostende 38.9°C (102.0°F)
Spa 36.7°C (98.1°F)
Elsennborn 36.2°C (97.2°F)
Saint Hubert 35.2°C (95.4°F)

France

Saint Maur (suburb of Paris) 43.6°C (110.5°F)
La Brosse 42.9°C (109.2°F)
Paris Montsouris 42.6°C (108.7°F)
Chablis 42.6°C (108.7°F)
Nemours 42.5°C (108.5°F)
Sens 42.4°C (108.3°F)
Bouy-sur-Orvin 42.4°C (108.3°F)
Paris Le Bourget 42.1°C (107.8°F)
Chatillon sur Seine 42.1°C (107.8°F)
Romorantin 42.0°C (107.6°F)
Bretigny 42.0°C (107.6°F)
Paris Orly 41.9°C (107.4°F)
Melun 41.9°C (107.4°F)
Cambrai 41.8°C (107.2°F)
Troyes 41.8°C (107.2°F)
Bourges 41.7°C (107.0°F)
Chateaudun 41.7°C (107.0°F)
Frignicourt 41.7°C (107.0°F)
Creil 41.6°C (106.9°F)
Beauvais 41.6°C (106.9°F)
Pontoise 41.6°C (106.9°F)
Auxerre 41.6°C (106.9°F)
Lille 41.5°C (106.7°F)
Chartes 41.4°C (106.5°F)
Chateauroux 41.4°C (106.5°F)
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport 41.4°C (106.5°F)
St Dizier 41.4°C (106.5°F)
Dunkerque 41.3°C (106.3°F)
Abbeville 41.3°C (106.3°F)
Rouen 41.3°C (106.3°F)
Orleans 41.3°C (106.3°F)
Juniville 41.3°C (106.3°F)
Le Mans 41.1°C (106.0°F)
Reims 41.1°C (106.0°F)
Cheverny 41.1°C (106.0°F)
Goderville 41.1°C (106.0°F)
Evreux 40.9°C (105.6°F)
Avord 40.9°C (105.6°F)
Tours 40.8°C (105.4°F)
Douai 40.8°C (105.4°F)
Toussus le Noble 40.8°C (105.4°F)
St Quentin 40.7°C (105.2°F)
Trappes 40.6°C (105.1°F)
Lisieux 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Villacoublay 40.3°C (104.5°F)
Sable sur Sarthe 40.3°C (104.5°F)
Dieppe 40.1°C (104.2°F)
L'Oudon 40.1°C (104.2°F)
Roville 40.0°C (104.0°F)
Sees 39.9°C (103.8°F)
Alencon 39.8°C (103.6°F)
Caen 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Deauville 39.4°C (103.0°F)
Erneville  39.4°C (103.0°F)
Le Touquet 39.3°C (102.7°F)
Strasbourg Airport 38.9°C (102.0°F)
Langres 38.8°C (101.8°F)
Chateau Chinon 38.8°C (101.8°F)
Le Havre 38.1°C (100.6°F)
Cap de la Heve 38.1°C (100.6°F)
Pontarlier 38.0°C (100.4°F)
Boulogne 36.4°C (97.5°F)

Germany

Lingen 42.6°C (108.7°F)*
   *national record
Tönisvorst 41.2°C (106.2°F)
Duisburg-Baerl 41.2°C (106.2°F)
Köln-Stammheim 41.1°C (106.0°F)
Bonn-Roleber 40.9°C (105.6°F)
Kleve 40.9°C (105.6°F)
Düsseldorf 40.7°C (105.3°F)
Weilerswist-Lommersum 40.6°C (105.1°F)
Trier-Petrisberg 40.6°C (105.3°F)
Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Kahl/Main 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Frankfurt/Main Airport 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Wuppertal-Buchenhofen 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Neuenkirchen-Wellesweiler 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Bad Nauheim 40.1°C (104.2°F)
Münster/Osnabrück Airport 40.0°C (104.0°F)
Essen-Bredeney 40.0°C (104.0°F)
Schaafheim-Schlierbach 40.0°C (104.0°F)
Perl-Nennig 39.9°C (103.8°F)
Heinsberg-Schleiden 39.9°C (103.8°F)
Offenbach-Wetterpark 39.9°C (103.8°F)
Bad Dürkheim 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Olsdorf 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Bad Kreuznach 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Geldern-Walbeck 39.6°C (103.5°F)
Dörpen 39.6°C (103.3°F)
Geisenheim 39.4°C (102.9°F)
Rheinstetten 39.2°C (102.6°F)
Alfhausen 39.2°C (102.6°F)
Mainz-Lerchenberg 39.1°C (102.4°F)
Kaiserslautern 39.1°C (102.4°F)
Ostheim vor der Röhn 39.1°C (102.4°F)
Rahden-Kleinendorf 39.1°C (102.4°F)
Worms 39.0°C (102.2°F)
Ohlsback 39.0°C (102.2°F)
Diepholz 39.0°C (102.2°F)
Weiskirchen/Saar 38.9°C (102.0°F)
Montabaur 38.6°C (101.5°F)
Aachen-Orsbach 38.6°C (101.5°F)
Arnsberg-Neheim 38.5°C (101.3°F)
Alzey 38.4°C (101.1°F)
Hilgenroth 38.3°C (100.9°F)
Berus 38.2°C (100.8°F)
Giessen/Wettenberg 38.2°C (100.8°F)
Bamberg 38.2°C (100.8°F)
Waldems-Reinborn 38.1°C (100.6°F)
Baden 38.0°C (100.4°F)
Schotten 38.0°C (100.4°F)
Göttingen 38.0°C (100.4°F)
Lüdenscheid 37.9°C (100.2°F)
Bad Lippspringe 37.9°C (100.2°F)
Lennestadt-Theten 37.9°C (100.2°F)
Manderscheid-Sonnenhof 37.8°C (100.0°F)
Lautertal-Oberlauter 37.8°C (100.0°F)
Burgwald-Bottendorf 37.8°C (100.0°F)
Bad Salzuflen 37.8°C (100.0°F)
Blankenrath 37.7°C (99.9°F)
Bad Hersfeld 37.7°C (99.9°F)
Nienburg 37.6°C (99.7°F)
Friesoythe-Altenoythe 37.5°C (99.5°F)
Tholey 37.5°C (99.5°F)
Asfeld 37.3°C (99.1°F)
Helmstedt-Emmerstedt 37.3°C (99.1°F)
Nürburg 37.2°C (99.0°F)
Worpswede-Hüttenbusch 37.2°C (99.0°F)
Bevern 37.2°C (99.0°F)
Sandberg 37.1°C (98.8°F)
Bad Harzburg 37.1°C (98.8°F)
Deuselbach 37.1°C (98.8°F)
Konstanz 36.9°C (98.4°F)
Kall-Sistig 36.8°C (98.2°F)
Eslohe 36.7°C (98.0°F)
Pirmasens 36.6°C (97.9°F)
Simmern-Wahlbach 36.5°C (97.7°F)
Bad Marienberg 34.8°C (94.6°F)
Fichtelberg 34.5°C (94.1°F)
Wernigerode-Schierke 33.9°C (93.0°F)
Braunlage 33.9°C (93.0°F)
Kleiner Feldberg 33.4°C (92.1°F)
Wasserkuppe 33.0°C (91.4°F)
Kahler Asten 31.9°C (89.4°F)
Schmücke 31.6°C (88.9°F)
Brocken 29.7°C (85.5°F)

Luxembourg

Steinsel 40.8°C (105.4°F)*
  *national record
Beetebuerg 40.7°C (105.3°F)
Grevenmacher 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Luxembourg Ville 38.9°C (102.0°F)

Netherlands

Gilze Rijen 40.7°C (105.3°F)* 
   *national record
Eindhoven 40.4°C (104.7°F)
Woensdrecht 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Twenthe 40.2°C (104.4°F)
Volkel 39.9°C (103.8°F)
Deelen 39.7°C (103.5°F)
Maastricht 39.6°C (103.3°F)
Hoek van Holland 38.9°C (102.0°F)
Lelystad 37.5°C (99.5°F)
De Bilt 37.5°C (99.5°F)
Vlissingen 37.3°C (99.1°F)
Rotterdam 37.2°C (99.0°F)
Amsterdam 36.3°C (97.3°F)
Le Goeree 36.3°C (97.3°F)

Norway

Namsskogan 33.5°C (92.5°F)

United Kingdom

Cambridge 38.7°C (101.7°F)*
   *national record
Benson 37.0°C (98.6°F)
Wittering 36.7°C (98.0°F)
Rothamsted 36.6°C (97.9°F)
Marham 36.5°C (97.7°F)
Oxford 36.5°C (97.7°F)
Cranwell 36.3°C (97.3°F)
Holbeach 36.1°C (97.0°F)
Nottingham 36.1°C (97.0°F)
Langdon Bay 35.9°C (96.6°F)
Manston 35.5°C (95.9°F)
Scampton 35.1°C (95.2°F)
Waddington 35.1°C (95.2°F)
Herstmonceaux 35.0°C (95.0°F)
Linton On Ouse 34.8°C (94.6°F)
Coningsby 34.6°C (94.3°F)
Leeming 34.5°C (94.1°F)
Edinburgh 31.6°C (88.9°F)

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

author image

Bob Henson

WU meteorologist Bob Henson, co-editor of Category 6, is the author of "Meteorology Today" and "The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change." Before joining WU, he was a longtime writer and editor at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.

bob.henson@weather.com

@bhensonweather

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