Shanghai declares third rare extreme heat warning of summer

China’s most populous city, Shanghai, issued its highest extreme heat alert for the third time this summer as sweltering temperatures repeatedly tested record highs this week.

The commercial and industrial hub of 25 million people declared a red alert on Thursday, warning of expected temperatures of at least 40C (104F) in the next 24 hours. Temperatures soared to 40.6°C in the afternoon, but fell below Wednesday’s 40.9°C, which was a 2017 record.

Extreme heat conditions also set in in parts of Europe. Firefighters fought wildfires in Spain, Portugal, France and Croatia.

Only 17 red alerts have been issued in Shanghai since records began in 1873, but three have been issued in the past five days. Photography: Alex Plavevski/EPA

As of 5 p.m. local time, Shanghai’s red alert was in effect. The highest of a three-level color-coded warning system, it requires the reduction or cessation of construction and other outdoor work.

Shanghai has issued three red alerts in the past five days, although this is a relatively rare occurrence, with only 17 issued since record keeping began in 1873.

The hot weather coincided with mass testing for Covid-19 in several districts amid minor outbreaks, adding to heat concerns for residents and health workers wearing protective suits.

Some Covid-19 testers stuck bottles of frozen mineral water to their white hazmat suits as they worked, while others sat next to huge blocks of ice to cool off. “This suit is terribly hot,” Peng Lei, who worked at a testing site, told Reuters. “Clothes are never dry. All day they are wet with sweat.

Some communities also started testing in the evening when it was cooler.

Last month’s unusual heat wave affected half of China. The Yangtze River Basin, which encompasses major cities from Shanghai to Chongqing in the heartland, has been roasting under heatwaves over the past week.

As of 5 p.m., 86 red alerts had been declared across China, most in the Yangtze basin.

Increased demand for air conditioning pushed China’s peak power load to a record high on Tuesday. Authorities said they were making every effort to ensure energy supply during the peak summer demand period.

Southern European nations – experiencing the second heat wave in as many months – have been hit by a series of wildfires in recent weeks.

A Canadair CL-415 firefighting aircraft from Italy takes part in firefighting operations at Gesteira de Baixo on July 14, 2022 in Pombal, Portugal
Forest fires have swept through the central part of Portgual. Photography: Octavio Passos/Getty Images

In the central district of Leiria, Portugal, tired firefighters battled to control blazes that were fanned by strong winds. Footage from the area on Wednesday showed smoke darkening the sky and rising over a highway, while flames licked the roofs of houses in a small village.

Across the border in western Spain, a fire that broke out in the Extremadura region on Tuesday swept through the province of Salamanca in the Castile and León region, forcing evacuation on Thursday of 49 children from a summer camp.

Regional authorities said more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of land had been burned.

Spanish weather agency Aemet expects the heat wave to peak later on Thursday, with temperatures likely to exceed 44C in large parts of southern Spain.

On Croatia’s Adriatic coast, firefighting planes swooped low to dump water on burning forests, and troops were called in to help firefighters battling to contain three major wildfires around from Zadar and Šibenik.

In southwestern France, around 1,000 firefighters, supported by six water bomber planes, were battling two wildfires that started on Tuesday.

The larger of Gironde’s two fires occurred around the town of Landiras, south of Bordeaux, where roads were closed and 500 residents evacuated.

The other fire occurred along the Atlantic coast, near the Dune du Pilat – the highest sand dune in Europe – in the Bassin d’Arcachon region, above which heavy clouds ​Black smoke was seen rising into the sky.

About 6,000 people were evacuated from surrounding campsites on Wednesday and another 4,000 people early Thursday.

Scientists blame human-induced climate change for the increased frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves, which have also hit parts of China and the United States in recent days.

A study published last week in the journal Nature found that the number of heat waves in Europe has increased three to four times faster than in the rest of the mid-northern latitudes, such as the United States and Canada, in large part because of the jet the air stream splits into two parts for longer periods.

“Europe is very affected by changes in atmospheric circulation,” co-author Kai Kornhuber, a climatologist at Columbia University, told Reuters. It is a hot spot of the heat wave.

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