Last July, temperatures in London and Hamburg, in northern Germany, reached a level that seemed unthinkable in previous centuries: 104 degrees (40 Celsius).
In large parts of the western and central United States, where temperatures regularly exceed 105 (40.5 Celsius), it may not feel particularly hot. But London and Hamburg are northern maritime climates, where average high temperatures in July are in the mid-70s (23 to 25 degrees Celsius), and they have no close equivalents in the lower 48 states.
To translate these records to cities across America, The Washington Post and the non-profit organization Climate Central calculated how much hotter the record was compared to extremely high temperatures in London for the month of July.
104°F in London is like 129°F in Phoenix
London and Hamburg are located near the equivalent latitudes of Calgary and Edmonton in North America and less than 50 miles from the cold North Sea. They are nothing like relatively arid, landlocked southern cities such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas and Oklahoma City, where temperatures hit 110 this week. Even Seattle, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Portland, Maine have warmer average highs in July — around 80 degrees.
Breaking their all-time records, temperatures in London and Hamburg soared about 32 degrees (18 degrees Celsius) above average. Simon Lee, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University, said it was “surreal” to see temperature records plummeting in Western Europe and Britain. The heat wave “didn’t just smash them apart like we’ve seen in the past,” he said. “He bulldozed them.”
London was one of at least 34 places in Britain to exceed the UK’s all-time highest temperature – 101.7 degrees or 38.7 degrees Celsius. The country was sweltering in the heat, as the British people and infrastructure are unaccustomed to such extremes. London’s steel rails swelled and warped, while Cambridge’s roads softened and bent. People have flocked to cool off in public swimming pools or air-conditioned public spaces, as less than 5% of homes have air conditioning according to government estimates.
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The heat is a taste of the extreme temperatures to come in global warming. The UK Met Office has found that the country is now 10 times more likely to experience 40 degrees Celsius than in a world unaffected by man-made climate change, highlighting the need for better climate adaptation in the country.
105°F in Madrid is like 120°F in Phoenix
The heat wave swept across the Iberian Peninsula last week and Madrid reached its highest temperature on record: 105 degrees (40.7 degrees Celsius). The mercury rose even higher in northwestern Spain, surpassing 109 degrees (43 degrees Celsius) to set all-time records in Ourense and Ribadavia.
The government has advised people to stay indoors and reduce physical activity. In a country where only a third of homes have air conditioning, some have flocked to their air-conditioned workplaces and public spaces.
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Temperatures remained warm throughout the night and Madrid also experienced its hottest night on record at 79.1 degrees (26.2 degrees Celsius). High nighttime temperatures prevent people from cooling off and can increase heat stress, which can lead to heat exhaustion, strokes and death. Last week, nearly 900 people in Spain died of heat-related illnesses.
Combined with dry conditions, the extreme heat also sparked wildfires that consumed tens of thousands of hectares.
35°C in Dublin is like 127°F in Phoenix
Dublin set a new record in July at 91.4 degrees (33 degrees Celsius), the country’s highest temperature in the 21st century. Huge crowds chilled on the beaches and at least one wildfire broke out around 15 miles south of the Irish capital. The heat wave was intense but short-lived, with showers returning to the region this week.
Adrián Blanco Ramos and Kasha Patel contributed to this report.