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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Heat wave breaks records in Europe

Por Rory

The high temperatures that hit Europe could break local and continental records in the coming days and in Spain already claimed two fatalities. Several Mediterranean countries already issued climate warnings, while thermometers exceeded 40 °C and records are increasing. The alerts are on the Iberian Peninsula, where, according to forecasts, it is expected that the highest temperatures will be recorded during this weekend. The thermometers are expected to be around 47 °C in the southwest of Spain and in the south and southeast of Portugal. But they are not the only ones affected by this heat wave, which is already beginning to show unusual effects in several regions. For instance in Norway, the authorities alerted drivers because reindeer and sheep are sheltering from heat in herds under bridges.

Last month was, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the hottest July since registration and now, in August, the situation does not seem very different. Spain and Portugal are expected to be among the most affected by the heat wave but they are not the only ones affected by this heat wave, which is already beginning to show unusual effects in several regions of the world. In Germany, the conjunction of the sun and the high temperatures caused the water levels of the Elbe to fall this week and munitions from the Second World War appeared on the riverbank. Meanwhile, Sweden has a new high point since Wednesday, after a glacier melted and showed that a summit of the Kebnekaise mountain, hitherto covered with ice, was greater than the point considered the highest in the country. And there is so much heat in Vienna that the Austrian authorities began to distribute deodorant in the subway. Italy also experiences the most intense heat wave of the boreal summer despite its high point has already passed and in the coming hours the temperatures will tend to soften throughout the country. In any case, in Rome, Civil Protection has distributed bottles of water in the areas of greatest tourist concentration, such as the Colosseum or the Imperial Forums, while visitors take advantage of the numerous fountains to cool off. The animals are not spared from the heat and the workers of the Roman zoo have distributed their food inside blocks of ice.

In California, experts warned that the intensity of the fires was so high that they were generating a climate system with their own laws in the area of fires. The fires have even reached areas of the Arctic Circle, a place of perpetual snow. In Japan, they continue in a situation of "natural disaster" due to the heat, in Greece the death toll from last month's fires totals 91, while another 29 have died in recent days in South Korea. However, the eyes of the experts are now over Europe, where a wave of hot air arrives from Africa and is expected to break the historical marks.

The current temperature record in the "old continent" is 48 °C and was recorded in Athens in July 1977. But what has been the highest temperature recorded in the world? For 90 years, the world record for temperatures seemed unbeatable. In all records since then the 58 °C that marked the thermometers were recorded in El Azizia, Libya, on September 13, 1922. But in 2012, the World Meteorological Organization disqualified that brand. And it is that a research they did then concluded that the measurement of El Azizia could be inaccurate up to 7 °C, due to a combination of factors ranging from an inexperienced observer to characteristics of the asphalt surface on which it was taken. The record fell since then on Greenland Ranch, a place in Death Valley in California, where it was recorded 56.7 °C on July 10, 1913. The Valley is considered, in fact, the hottest place on Earth.

On July 15, 1972, a temperature of 93 °C was recorded at ground level, although this mark is not considered the temperature of the place, since it is officially measured at 1.5 meters from the surface to avoid errors of result by the reverberation of the heat in the ground. Therefore, the 56.7 °C registered there in 1913 continue, until now, as the global record of temperatures. However, the acceptance of this registry is not universal. In his Weather Underground investigation, meteorologist Christopher Burt, one of those responsible for the disqualification of Libya's temperature, considered the 1913 record to be "a myth" and calculated that it would be at least 2 °C lower.

In his Record Temperature Study of 134° F in the Valley of Death, the meteorologist William T. Reid also considers that this mark is "improbable" and that "it is not authentic". If Burt and Reid were right, then it would be in two places where the highest temperatures on the planet have been recorded. The Valley of Death would remain one of them, with a mark of 54 °C on June 20, 2013. The other would be in Mitribah, Kuwait, where on July 21, 2016 the same temperature was reached.