The Czech Republic has been hit with a severe heat wave. Currents of hot air coming from north Africa via France and southern Germany raised temperatures by to record-breaking highs this week, with a new record of 40.4 degrees Celsius registered outside Prague on Monday. While doctors advise people to take extra caution to avoid problems, meteorologists warn the heat will soon give way to heavy storms expected later on Tuesday.
Many places around the Czech Republic were hotter on Monday than Dubai, Tunisia and Hawaii. Around three dozen temperature records were broken on that day, with the highest ever temperature of 40.4 degrees Celsius, or 105ºF recorded in Dobřichovice, just west of Prague. I asked some of the people on the streets of the capital about how they dealt with the extreme heat.
“I was at work till 2, and then I went to the swimming pool and spent three and half hours there. But then, I had to go a floorball practice and the gym felt like the Sahara.”
“We went out, had ice cream, and visited some monuments. We drank a lot.”
“It was very hot. Too hot. But great.”
In many cases, the severe conditions called for special measures: some employers offered workers cold drinks and let them go home early; the authorities sprayed the streets with water while police were instructed to check parked cars for children and pets.
In Prague, the Castle Guards were ordered out of their booths to patrol the grounds on foot. The tropical heat even made organizes of a circus festival in the capital pour water on the tents to avoid overheating.
Doctors warn that the extreme temperatures could affect young children and the elderly as well as those with severe asthma or high blood pressure. However, ambulance services say they registered no significant rise in numbers of patients brought in because of the heat.
Summer heat waves are not unknown in the Czech Republic. According to deputy head of Czech Hydrometeorological Institute Radim Tolasz, the conditions of Central European make it prone to extremities both in summer and winter, and the current heat wave is not necessarily linked to the disputed phenomenon of global climate change.
“From the meteorological point of view, Central Europe is prone to heat waves in the summer and severe frost in the winter. It does not happen each year but every 10 or 20 years, the situation can get extreme.
“But I don’t think it’s a result of global climate change; it’s a result of standard weather conditions as monitored for hundreds of years.”
However, Mr Tolasz says the results of a recent study by the institute suggest that such extreme conditions are set to become more frequent in the future.
“One of the results of that study was that we will expect more extreme weather, more extreme situations in the coming years, not only in the summer but in the winter, too, and not only in temperatures but also in precipitation, storms, wind, and so on. So in the coming years, Czechs should expect more extreme weather.”
Those who find it difficult to cope with tropical heat will be relieved to know that the current heat wave seems to be on the way out. Instead, meteorologists warn that the country will be hit by severe storms later on Tuesday and Wednesday.