Elizabeth O’Connell of Northeastern University-London worked through Britain’s record breaking heat wave Tuesday at home with her curtains closed and a Dyson fan at her side.
“Regular cold showers are a must,” says O’Connell, director of marketing and admissions for Northeastern’s London location.
“Dog walks now take place at 6 a.m. when it is relatively cool. Few homes have air conditioning, as historically we have not experienced the temperatures to warrant its installation,” she says in an email.
The heat wave striking Europe has sent temperatures in Britain above 40 degrees Celsius–or 104 Fahrenheit—for the first time ever, caused wildfires in France and killed more than 1,000 people in Spain and Portugal.
Northeastern University professors say it is a sign of more to come as climate change continues to create extreme weather challenges.
“Continents across the globe are going through enormous heat waves,” says Auroop Ganguly, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University.
“It’s not that they have never happened before. They have not happened continuously for this long and over and over,” he says.
“We are seeing records being broken almost each successive year.”
To say that northern latitudes such as Britain were unprepared for the broiler to be turned on is an understatement.
“Our overall lack of readiness for extreme heat extends to our overall infrastructure,” O’Connell reports from London.
“So while some of my luckier colleagues are working in the wonderfully air-conditioned campus at St. Katharine Docks, many staff have been unable to travel to the campus for reasons such as train cancellations and no air conditioning in the Tube or buses,” she says.
CBS News reported that hundreds of trains were canceled in Britain, and people were advised not to take public transportation. It said London’s Luton Airport had to cancel flights after part of the runway melted.
But it’s not just Europe.
The Washington Post reported that Central Asia and Oklahoma and Texas are currently baking in excessive heat.
Last month, Phoenix and Las Vegas experienced record daily high temperatures, while the North African city of Tunis experienced a scorching record high of 118 degrees Fahrenheit on July 13, according to NASA.
“It is extraordinary, but it’s completely expected,” says Samuel Munoz, Northeastern University assistant professor of marine and environmental sciences.
“Environmental and climate scientists have been predicting an increase in extreme weather events for years due to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate,” Munoz says.
“We’re going to keep breaking records,” he says.
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Photo by Steve Taylor/Sipa via AP Images.