On Thursday, Paris recorded a temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius, an all-time high, as people across northern Europe tried to battle a ferocious heatwave. The heatwave also shattered records in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. Hot and dry air, originating from northern Africa, trapped between cold stormy systems, was the culprit for the miserable conditions in northern Europe.
According to German Weather service, the temperature in Germany measured 42.6 degrees Celsius, its highest-ever in the northwestern town of Lingen.
Temperatures soared over 40 degrees Celsius in both Belgium and Netherlands. Belgium reached a new record high of 40.6 degrees Celsius on the Kleine-Brogel military base. While the temperature in UK was below 40 degrees Celsius, the 36.9 degrees recorded at London's Heathrow Airport was still a record temperature for July.
Scorching heat led to a disruption in transportation. As a result, millions of commuters had to face difficulties. To avoid damage to railway tracks, trains have been slowed in many European countries.
French environment minister Elisabeth Borne urged citizens to work from home and skip office.
"I ask everyone who can avoid or delay their journeys to do so," he said. In the wake of the heatwave, local authorities imposed restrictions on the usage of water and Paris was under a red alert.
What is a heatwave?
According to a report by BBC, “there is no universally accepted definition of a heatwave, due to variations in climate conditions in different world regions. Typically though, they are defined by an unseasonably hot period — usually five degrees or more above the average daily maximum — that lasts at least three days”.
How are European countries battling heatwave without using air conditioners?
Inspite of the heatwave, a majority of European countries have not chosen the easy way out, ie, using air conditioners. German chancellor Angela Merkel led by example by attending the Wagner festival at an un-air-conditioned opera hall in the southern city of Bayreuth on Thursday.
The New York Times reported that “Parisians could be seen plunging fully clothed into the fountains of the Trocadéro, Viennese cooled themselves in municipal misters, and Amsterdamers dangled their feet in a repurposed kiddie pool at a cafe. But here is what is far less likely to be seen: air conditioners”.
At one point of time, the architecture in Europe kept cities and towns cool. However, since traditional approaches can no longer be used, experts have pointed out simple steps like placing shutters inside buildings, not outside, where they bake in the sun. High tech approaches used in cities also serve as an alternative to air conditioners. In Paris, for example, a 49-mile underground network helps cool a big patch of the city, including the Louvre Museum. The system pumps cold water from the Seine.
Since most houses and cafes in France do not have air conditioning, the most accessible places for air conditioning are stores, museums, movie theatres and some restaurants. Tourists and locals have been advised to head to such places to seek relief from the heat.
A majority of public transportation in Europe does not include air conditioning. To cope with the heat, agents are handing out water bottles and paper fans. Paris has also created an application called Extrema Paris that highlights the cool spots around a person’s current location. Besides, the city is encouraging people to go to green spaces for keeping cool
Scientists, especially in Europe, have highlighted the ill-effects of using air conditioners. Brice Tréméac, head of the Laboratory of Cold, Energy and Thermic Systems, a Paris-based public research institute, was quoted as saying by The New York Times that “by cooling off the inside and warming the outside, we are feeding a disastrous vicious circle”.
According to a 2018 report by the International Energy Agency, Europe accounts for just 6 percent of the global share of air conditioners, compared with 23 percent for the United States and 35 percent for China. The report added that more than 90 percent of Japanese and American households have an air conditioning system and fewer than 10 percent of Europeans have one. In Germany, the figure is as low as 2 percent.
Since air conditioning is scarce, governments in most European countries have advised citizens to cool down in public places like fountains, pools, green spaces, museums and focused on ensuring that citizens are hydrated.
Updated Date: Jul 26, 2019 19:03:39 IST