Extreme heat, drought brings river low enough for people to walk across
The effects of the stifling heat wave in July and hardly any rainfall are starting to show in one nation's longest river, which is all but dried up in some spots.
France's Loire River runs about 625 miles throughout the country. In some places, you can now cross it on foot.
France is one of the European countries fresh off a brutal heat wave that left hundreds dead across the continent in July. However, people weren't the only ones to suffer, as crucial waterways have dried up rapidly this summer.
The Loire River, the longest in France, flows from the southeastern region of the country to about 75 miles south of Paris, then flows west where it eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean. On Tuesday, news footage showed the water level in the Loire has dropped so low in some places that residents can wade from one bank to the other.
"I remember episodes of heat and a lack of water when I was a child. Now, last year, we had a very rainy summer. This year, we have a very dry summer," Cyrille Cousine, a French administrative officer, told AFP. "From one year to the next, the most difficult thing is that these are completely different episodes, seasons that you can't guess in advance."
Cousine, who was on vacation, said the sun and warm weather can be pleasant for outdoor activities like wading through the Loire, but the "long-term effects" of extreme heat events are more important.
"It's a real question that we have to ask ourselves: a question about the supply of drinking water for everyone, because that's also what counts. It counts for agriculture, because agriculture also uses water for crops. If tomorrow we run out of water, we will also run out of sunshine," Cousine said. "And global warming is not just about sunshine, it's not just about heat, it's also about climate change in every aspect, and that's what's problematic."
As Europe still grapples with the aftermath of July's deadly heat, AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said a new bout of record-challenging temperatures is on the way.
"Portions of Northern Europe will begin to sizzle once again later this week as high pressure and unseasonable air settle in," Gilbert said, adding that record-challenging temperatures began as early as Thursday across portions of the United Kingdom and northern France. "These very hot conditions will stick around through much of the weekend."
Paris has projected highs of 89-91 F through the weekend, before some relief in the form of possible rain and temperatures in the mid-70s arrive next week. During the same week in 2021, the city had highs in the 70s to mid-80s.
London is under an amber warning for extreme heat from Thursday to Monday, with highs in the upper 80s to lower 90s. This time last year was much cooler, and the warmest it got all month was a pleasant 72 degrees.
Frankfurt, Germany, won't see as many days with highs of 90 or more, but it will stay firmly in the upper 80s until Monday at least. Temperatures last August never exceeded 90 degrees, and sometimes even fell below 70.
Following the record-smashing Europe heat wave in July, France looks a lot less green than it did in the summer of 2021. (NASA WorldView)
This week's heat will also worsen the ongoing dry spell in parts of France.
"The lack of sufficient rainfall across the region this summer has led to drought conditions across a wide swath of Northern Europe," Gilbert said. "When the soil is so dry, it is able to heat up faster and to a higher level than moist soil. This feedback loop turns hot weather into dangerously hot weather."
As a result of the ongoing dry weather, the source of the River Thames in England has dried up farther downstream than ever before, according to Reuters. The natural spring that feeds the river in Gloucestershire, England, is no longer producing flowing water, making the official start point of the river 5 miles downstream than it typically is.
In July, parts of the Iberian Peninsula hit temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit, while the U.K. declared its first-ever extreme red heat warning, and eventually suspended flights at the London Luton Airport after the outdoor conditions damaged its runway. In southern France, tens of thousands were evacuated as wildfires ravaged the countryside.
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