These 7 maps show how hot it is historically in Europe and the US


A historic and deadly heatwave has scorched western Europe, killing hundreds in Spain and Portugal. Temperatures soared to 115 degrees in bone-dry conditions across the Iberian Peninsula, fueling wildfires and displacing thousands of people in France. The mercury exceeded 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) in the UK on Monday and is expected to rise higher on Tuesday.

Britain braces for record temperatures as ‘heat apocalypse’ hits Europe

For the first time, the UK Met Office has issued a red warning for heat, its most extreme warning. The warning, which is in effect until Tuesday, includes Birmingham, Oxford, Nottingham and London.

Wales already recorded its highest temperature on Monday and England could be hit with temperatures as high as 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) next Tuesday.

At the same time, another heatwave is brewing across the pond in the United States — one that tied for Sunday’s highest temperatures in Salt Lake City and could bring readings as high as 113 degrees in Texas and Oklahoma on Tuesday.

A third heat wave is brewing in Central Asia.

These heat waves fit into a pattern of increasingly frequent, intense, and prolonged events catalyzed by climate change. Human activity is already pushing high-end heat into record territory.

These seven maps and charts illustrate their gravity and historical character:

1. Temperatures 36 degrees (20 degrees Celsius) above normal in the UK

A good indicator of how unusual an event is can be found by looking at anomalies or deviations from the average. The map above is in Celsius, but the color scheme is descriptive.

Anomalies of up to 20 degrees Celsius or 36 Fahrenheit show how far current temperatures deviate from the norm. A typical July afternoon in the UK would see readings in the low to mid 70s (low 20s Celsius), but peak temperatures are expected to end on either side of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). Remember how far north the UK is: London sits on a latitude just north of Calgary.

2. A look into the future

The predicted maximum temperature in the UK by Tuesday could approach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees), which would set a new national record and surpass the previous mark of 101.7 degrees (38.7 degrees Celsius) set on 25 July 2019 in Cambridge, East England.

In 2020, the UK Met Office released forecasts suggesting such heat will be commonplace by 2050 due to human-caused climate change.

Global warming has already significantly increased the probability of such extreme temperatures.

“The chances of seeing 40°C [104 degrees] UK days could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influences,” said Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution scientist at the Met Office. “The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in any given year has also increased rapidly and even with current emission reduction pledges, such extremes could occur every 15 years in the 2100 climate.”

3. Unprecedented mid-range temperatures

This is a representation of the results of the European weather model as early as Friday 8th July as the models began to capture the extraordinary nature of the ongoing event in Europe.

It shows temperatures of 850 millibars, or a little less than a mile above the ground. However, instead of showing the raw temperature, the chart plots the readings based on the percentile. Anything in magenta is listed in the color bar below as “Record High” – in other words, the weather model has never projected hotter temperatures at this time of year, altitude, and location. In other words, the air mass at mid-altitudes is unprecedented.

Not surprisingly, hot air high up leads to even hotter air near the surface. That supports record levels that are both remarkable and deadly.

One of the UK’s most notorious heatwaves occurred 46 years ago, an ongoing event that set many records. Although this heatwave did not match the 1976 heatwave in terms of longevity (the UK had 15 consecutive days with temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius), it is expected to be more intense. The maximum temperature during the 1976 heatwave was 35.9 degrees Celsius (96.6 degrees), compared to the 40 degrees Celsius predicted for that event.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise given how much the climate has warmed since the 1970s. The average temperature in the UK has warmed by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees) since the mid-1970s, according to the Royal Society.

5. Records falling in real time

This chart from takes real-time observations from weather stations and compares them to historical data; it is from 14:00 Monday local time. All in red marks a city breaking a daily record; Magenta represents a station that is meeting or breaking a monthly temperature record, and black circles with an “x” inside them indicate that it is meeting or exceeding an all-time high.

Several black circles can be seen across the south-east of the UK, particularly in England, underscoring the unprecedented nature of the event.

Temperatures will rise on Monday Wales rose to 98.8 degrees (37.1 degrees Celsius), the highest on record. The high of 91.4 degrees (33 degrees Celsius) in Dublin marks Ireland’s highest air temperature of the 20th and 21st centuries.

6. 100s from Mexico to Canada

It’s not often that you see three-digit numbers spanning the entire south-north expanse of the United States, from the tip where south Texas meets Mexico to the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. But that was Monday’s forecast, and Tuesday could be even hotter for the Southern Plains. About 40 million people in the lower 48 states are on heat alert.

Highs of up to 109 degrees are expected in the Dakotas on Monday, and 112 degrees could be seen in Wichita Falls, Texas on Tuesday. Triple digit temperatures will continue to fester there for at least the next week, with unseasonably hot temperatures persisting for the foreseeable future.

The heat has already set impressive records. On Sunday, Salt Lake City climbed to 107 degrees – its all-time high. Dodge City, Kan., hit 109 degrees over both weekend days, matching the highest temperature observed in July. Even as far north as Glasgow, Mont., it hit 108 degrees on Sunday, among the top 10 highest temperatures observed in a month.

7. A third heat wave in Central Asia

In addition to the central USA and Western Europe, Central Asia is also baking. In other words, three exceptional heat waves hit the northern hemisphere.

The map below shows temperature anomalies that are 11 degrees Celsius (20 Fahrenheit) or more above Plateau of Tibet in Central Asia.

In Tibet, the hot summer sun heats the high-altitude terrain and causes warm air to rise on the plateau, creating a “thermal depression” that draws warm, humid air from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. This is what triggers the annual monsoon there. These 7 maps show how hot it is historically in Europe and the US

Dustin Huang

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