Hot, Dusty and on Fire: Portugal’s Heatwave Breaks Records

August 4, 2018 Last Updated: August 4, 2018

LISBON—Eight places in Portugal broke local temperature records as a wave of heat from North Africa swept across the Iberian peninsula — and officials predicted the scorching temperatures could get even worse over the weekend.

Temperatures built to around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday in many inland areas of Portugal, and were expected to peak at 47 C (116.6 F) in some places Saturday. Large sections of Portugal are on red alert on the Civil Protection Agency’s danger scale.

A seagull flies over at La Concha beach during a hot summer day in the basque city of San Sebastian, northern Spain, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
A seagull flies over at La Concha beach during a hot summer day in the basque city of San Sebastian, northern Spain, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The highest temperature recorded Thursday, when the heat began to rise, was 45.2 C (113.4 F) near Abrantes, a town 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital, Lisbon, the country’s weather agency IPMA said.

Portugal’s highest recorded temperature was 47.4 C (117.3 F) in 2003. Emergency services have issued a red alert through Sunday, placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby.

In Portugal’s southern Alentejo province, streets were largely deserted. Some farmers chose to work during the night instead of in the heat of the day. Beaches around Lisbon, the capital, were packed.

Some 400 firefighters and five water-dropping aircraft, meanwhile, were battling a wildfire in southern Portugal’s Algarve region.

People cool off in an urban beach at Madrid Rio park in Madrid, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Portugal sees large wildfires every year, although unseasonably cool weather through the end of July has meant fewer blazes in 2018. The government says only about 15 percent of the 10-year average area has been charred so far this year.

Temperatures were being driven higher across the Iberian peninsula by a hot air mass moving northward from Africa, which is also bringing dust from the Sahara Desert, meteorologists said. The dust gave the sky a dark yellow hue in some places.

A Heatwave Sweeps Across Europe

In Spain, heat warnings were also issued for 41 of the country’s 50 provinces as temperatures were expected to reach up to 44 C (111.2 F). Spain’s highest recorded temperature is 46.9 C (116.42 F) in Cordoba, a southern city, in July 2017.

The World Meteorological Organization says continental Europe’s record is 48 C (118.4 F) in Greece in 1977.

A man walks under the water from a garden sprinkler by the Tagus riverbank in Lisbon, Thursday, Aug. 2 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

In northern Europe, Sweden was still under threat from wildfires, which in recent weeks have extended into the Arctic Circle.

Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency warned of “a high risk” for wildfires in central and southern Sweden this weekend because of the continuing dry weather and strong winds.

And over in Britain, an unusually long, torrid summer has taken its toll on the country’s flowers. The supermarket chain Morrisons has begun selling “wonky” flowers that have not developed properly.

The U.K.’s Met Office weather service says July was the country’s third-warmest month in more than a century.

In Moscow, as temperatures rose to close to 30 C (86 F), city authorities announced they were opening hundreds of “cool rooms” where residents could rest amid air conditioning, with water dispensers and medical attendants.

Although that temperature is far below the blazing heat hitting southern Europe, it’s well above the Russian capital’s average August maximum of 23 C (73 F).

By Barry Hatton