This week an extreme heatwave is gripping most of Western Europe. In the latest example of what is an increasingly common occurrence, daily highs are reaching 38 degrees Celsius in France, Germany and Poland, and the Czech Republic experienced a peak temperature of 38.9 degrees.
Not the typical highs for the month of June on the Old Continent.
Melting roads and runaway pollution
The situation has led governments in France and Germany to impose driving restrictions. Older cars have been banned from circulating in several large French cities, notably Paris and Lyon, and speed limits have been lowered on the German Autobahn for fear of road surfaces buckling.
The French government’s prohibition applies to gasoline-powered vehicles dating from before the end of 2005, and to diesel-engine vehicles dating before the end of 2010. According to the government, those categories amount to roughly 60% of the traffic that flows into Paris on a daily basis.
In Germany, a temporary reduction of the speed limit has been imposed on portions of the Autobahn that don’t normally have any at all. The fear is that the combination of extreme temperatures and high speeds could case cracking or buckling of the asphalt.
These measures do not have any direct effect on us, of course, but they certainly do serve as a wake-up call. There’s no reason to suppose that similar measures won’t be needed here, and sooner rather than later.