Europe is experiencing an historic heat wave that has been responsible for at 3,000 deaths in France alone. Compared to July 2001, temperatures in July 2003 were sizzling. This image shows the differences in day time land surface temperatures collected in the two years by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. A blanket of deep red across southern and eastern France (left of image center) shows where temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter this summer. White areas show where temperatures were similar, and blue shows where temperatures were cooler in 2003 than 2001.
Even the Alps, which arc across southeastern France, Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy (just below image center), are very warm this year. Glaciers are melting rapidly and swelling rivers and lakes to dangerously high levels. Climbers had to be evacuated from Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn after melting triggered the collapse of a rock face. The popular climbing destination has been closed while geologists assess the possibility of further collapses.
The heat wave stretches northward all the way to the United Kingdom, particularly southern England (bottom of island) and Scotland (top of island). In London, trains were shut down over fears that tracks would buckle in the heat, while in Scotland the high temperatures combined with falling water levels in rivers and streams are threatening the spawning and survival of salmon. Throughout France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the intense heat and dry conditions sparked devastating forest fires that killed at least 15 people.
Image by Reto Stockli and Robert Simmon, NASA?s Earth Observatory Team.
- Terra - MODIS