The French weather map captures Europe’s strange heatwave



France is grappling with a hot weather phenomenon known as the heatwave – and forecasters lack the means to describe both its immediate danger and its worrying significance in the long term.

Last week, meteorologist Ruben Hallali found a fitting metaphor in this image: a weather forecast model for Thursday, June 27, whose temperature models across France have just created the image of a howling skull.

Naturally, he tweeted it along with Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting, “The Scream”.

The map was first published on June 20 on Météociel, a French site that automatically generates weather model visualizations based on data from various forecast models. Météociel spokesman Sylvain Dupont told CNN that this particular map was generated from real data created by the US global forecasting system.

“Luckily, it was just possible to imagine a special skull shape on this map,” he said, pointing out the randomness of the appearance. “There are so many maps created on our site for each forecast updated that it is statistically possible that some of them look like something.”

The map was nonetheless “remarkable,” Dupont said, as it showed air temperatures of 26-28 degrees Celsius (79-82 Fahrenheit) across most of France, a rare high for this time of year. “This represents the current heatwave,” he added. CNN Weather is now forecasting a high of 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) for Paris on Thursday.

According to the French national meteorological service Météo-France, heatwaves are distinguished from ordinary heatwaves by their incessant intensity, with nights like sweltering days. They usually occur late in summer, between July 15 and August 15.

Climate change could explain the high temperatures hitting Europe unusually at the start of the year, as CNN previously reported. A German city on Wednesday broke a record with 38.6 degrees Celsius (101.5 Fahrenheit) – the hottest temperature on record in the country. Several sites in France also broke heat records.

Global warming is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of dangerous heatwaves in the future, warns Météo-France. The extreme heat has already killed Europe, and in 2003 marked the whole of France with the deaths of more than 14,000 mostly elderly people.

“Heatwave” itself, derived from the Latin word for dog, is a term loaded with foreboding. Much like canicola in Italy and ‘scorching summer days’ in the US and UK, the term refers to the time of year when the star Sirius, also known as “Canine star,” or Orion’s dog, rises with the sun – a period in which elders associated with both heat and chaos on Earth.

In the Iliad, Homer describes “the star which men call the Dog of Orion” as the brightest of all – and yet which “is ominous for mortals, for it brings fire and fever to his suite ”.


Dale D. Schrum

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