Searching for relief from a ‘heat apocalypse’ – and expecting the worst

Ouf! C’est presque fini!

Or is it?

Meteorologists here in south-west France predict we will have some mid-night relief from this unbearable “canicule” (that’s French for way too bloody hot).

The drop in temperature probably won’t last long, however – and, anyway, the news is little comfort for the thousands of evacuees crammed into school halls and worried their homes are about to be razed by bushfires.

More than a dozen heat records fell on Monday in what one meteorologist described as France’s “heat apocalypse”.

Fires engulf the dunes and force 27,000 people to flee. Photo: Twitter

As I write this from Bordeaux, it’s going on 10pm and still up over 40 degrees. It feels like twice that, inside.

How many of us Australians have thought Europeans and Brits were overreacting to the forecasts we consider commonplace at home in summer. Oh you’re worried about taking the Tube? So cute! 

Now I must eat my words.

These places are not designed for this. I am not designed for this.

Beautiful as the architecture is, the stone and concrete radiates the heat.

There’s no escape.

Unlike at home, I can’t find a clean river to swim in or walk to the beach.

And where are all the trees?

There’s not a bubbler in sight, either.

The best free option is the Mirror d’Eau (Water Mirror) – a giant slab of granite filled with water, about two centimetres deep.

It’s the world’s largest reflection pool and proudly touted as one of the city’s most Instagrammable meeting places.

The Mabele family from Bordeaux cooled off in the Water Mirror. Photo: Andrea Hamblin

It will have to do. We dip our feet in as the last of the scorching sun glows through a thick blanket of smoke; a reminder that some 25,000 people are without homes tonight.

In Spain, 1000 people have died of heat-related illness and fires have so far killed at least two.

“Evidently, climate change kills,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

“It kills people, kills our ecosystem, the biodiversity”.

The worst is yet to come for Brits sweltering through the same heatwave.

There, the Met Office is predicting the hottest day on record on Tuesday and crews are preparing for more fires.

On Monday, train services were cut, schools closed and ambulance crews braced for a rise in emergency calls. Luton airport had to shutdown.

Temperatures had risen to 37.5 degrees in Kew Gardens, west London, by mid-afternoon, making it the hottest day of the year.

Wales has provisionally recorded its hottest day on record, with the temperature reaching 35.3 degrees in Gogerddan, near Aberystwyth, beating the previous record for the country, which was set in 1990.

Tuesday is predicted to be even warmer, with temperatures possibly reaching a “crazy” 41 degrees in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

The existing British record, of 38.7 degrees, recorded in Cambridge in 2019, looks certain to fall.

Met Office meteorologist Luke Miall said: “I’ve been a qualified meteorologist for 10 years, and telling people about 41 degrees in the UK doesn’t seem real.

“It’s crazy how we are talking about these sorts of values, I’ve never seen the models coming up with these values.

“It’s been quite an eye-opener to climate change with all these temperatures in the UK.”

Climate change, which has pushed up global temperatures by 1.2 degrees on pre-industrial levels, is making heatwaves longer, more intense and more likely.

Experts have warned of the need to adapt homes, cities and infrastructure for a future of more intense summer heat.

Back home the new State of the Environment report, released on Tuesday, paints a grim picture of how Australians are transforming the land, at a time “unusual” disasters aren’t so unusual.

Time we all take a look in the mirror pool?

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