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A tourist from the UK receives help near the Colosseum after fainting during a heatwave across Italy, in Rome, Italy July 11, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Berlin: Heat is blanketing Europe from Germany to the Balkans, putting pressure on the region’s energy and transport systems as rivers such as the Rhine and Rhone are impacted.

Germany’s national forecaster warned of “extreme heat stress on the Upper Rhine” on Tuesday. A similar alert was issued by the Italian weather service, with the mercury in Sardinia exceeding 40C (104F). The freezing level in the Alps will climb to about 4,600 to 4,800 meters (15,744 feet) on Tuesday, close to the altitude of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain.

Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather across the Northern Hemisphere this summer, bringing searing heat from China to Texas, while flooding hits New York and Delhi. Soaring temperatures are putting parts of Europe on track to break the heat records set last year.

Summer heat and sinking water levels on the Rhine river, critical for the transportation of energy commodities in Europe, remain in focus this month. The marker at Kaub “- a key waypoint on the river west of Frankfurt “- is expected to drop below 1 meter on Wednesday, according to Germany’s Federal Waterways Administration.

Image Credit: Reuters

Last August, the water marker at Kaub fell below 40 centimeters, a level at which many barges found it uneconomical to transit goods. That’s not the actual depth of the water, but rather a measure of navigability. The cost of moving diesel from Rotterdam’s oil-trading hub to a key point on the Upper Rhine rose the most since February on Tuesday, as low water levels restrict volumes barges are able to carry.

The warming of another key waterway, the Rhone, is likely to force Electricite de France SA to curb nuclear output at a handful of its nuclear reactors from Thursday. Under French rules, EDF must reduce or halt production when river temperatures reach certain thresholds to ensure the water used to cool the plants won’t harm the environment when put back into waterways.

Forecaster Maxar Technologies Inc. expects Germany’s heat wave to ease by next week, after temperatures in Frankfurt reach 35.5C on Tuesday and 34.5C on Saturday “- the peaks of its current 10-day forecast. Still, above-normal temperatures are expected to persist across much of southern Europe, with the Balkans experiencing heat in the low 40s, according to Maxar.

By contrast, the UK and the Nordics will enjoy cooler weather through the next 10 days. London will be 4.2C below the norm on Sunday and Monday. The UK previously had its hottest June on record.