Britain has broken its record for the hottest temperature in its history with a provisional record of 102.4 Fahrenheit (39.1 degrees Celsius) in Charlwood, England.

The previous record for Great Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F) in 2019.

Unusually hot and dry weather has been scorching the continent since last week, sparking fires from Portugal to the Balkans and causing hundreds of heat-related deaths. The images of the flames advancing towards a French beach and of Britons drenched in sweat, even on the beaches, have taught a real lesson in what climate change means.

In Britain, transport, public health and schools suffered disruptions in a country accustomed to more moderate temperatures. The Met Office’s Rachel Ayers said “temperatures will be very high throughout the day, before rising to as high as 40 Celsius, maybe even 41 Celsius in isolated parts of England in the afternoon.”

Much of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, is under the country’s first red alert for extreme heat, meaning even healthy people are at risk of death as dry, hot weather has punished continental Europe for the rest of the week moving north. Thermometers hit 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit (38.1 degrees Celsius) at Santon Downham in eastern England on Monday, slightly below the British record of 101.7 Fahrenheit (38.7 degrees Celsius) set in 2019. I expected Tuesday to be warmer.

Average July temperatures in Britain range from a daily high of 70 F (21 C) to a low of 53 F (12 C), and few homes or small businesses have air conditioning. Many people were dealing with the heat by staying indoors. Traffic on the highways was less than usual for a Monday. The trains ran at low speed for fear of deformations in the tracks, or they did not run at all. London’s King’s Cross station, one of the country’s busiest rail hubs, was empty on Tuesday, with no trains on the bustling East Coast Line that connects the capital to the north and Scotland. London’s Luton Airport had to close the runway due to heat damage.

Transport Secretary Grand Shapps said Britain’s infrastructure, some of it built in Victorian times, “was simply not built to withstand this kind of temperature, and it will be many years before we can replace … with the kind of infrastructure that could.”

At least five drownings were reported in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in Britain, where people tried to cool off. Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of more extreme weather events, with studies showing that temperatures in Britain reaching 40 degrees Celsius are now 10 times more likely than in the pre-industrial era. Drought and heat waves linked to climate change have also made it more difficult to fight the fires.

The heat wave has hit southern Europe since last week and sparked wildfires in Spain, Portugal and France. Nearly 600 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and Portugal, where 47 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) were reached last week. More than 37,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and vacation spots in the Gironde region of southwestern France since several fires started in the area’s parched pine forests on July 12. The fire has consumed 190 square kilometers (more than 70 square miles) of forest and vegetation, according to regional authorities.

A third fire broke out on Monday afternoon in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, adding to the pressure on firefighting resources. Five camping areas burned in the region on the Atlantic coast, around the Arcachon basin, famous for its oysters and spas.

However, weather forecasts offered some consolation as temperatures were expected to subside on the Atlantic coast on Tuesday and there was a chance of showers towards the end of the day.

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