Even Satellites Can See Europe's Sweltering Heat Wave

Satellite data of temperatures across Europe in later June 2019 and late July 2019, when a heat wave swept across the continent.
Satellite data of temperatures across Europe in later June 2019 and late July 2019, when a heat wave swept across the continent. (Image credit: Copernicus Sentinel/ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

An image of Europe pulsing red shows the effects of a heat wave sweeping across the continent again in July, following extreme temperatures in June.

The image, based on data from the European Union's Copernicus program, represents high temperatures — particularly in the regions of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Paris recently hit a peak of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius), breaking a record set in 1947, according to a statement released by the European Space Agency.

The animation shows the warm temperatures on Thursday (July 25), compared with the peak of the previous heat wave on June 26, 2019. That weather event also broke records.

Related: Earth Day 2019: These Amazing NASA Images Show Earth from Above

The data displayed in the images was gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-3's sea and land surface temperature radiometer, which measures the energy radiating from the Earth. That makes this approach a more accurate representation of land temperature than traditional weather forecasts that predict air temperatures, according to ESA.

eat is shown in shades of red; ice, such as in the Alps, in blue; the white patches are clouds.

In response to the current heat wave, many countries have issued warnings, recommending that residents drink lots of water and avoid traveling.

The Earth does goes through natural cycles of warming and cooling, and individual weather events cannot typically be ascribed to climate change. But current warming trends and other climatic disruptions are driven by an unprecedented, human-caused increase in atmospheric concentrations in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas commonly released by vehicles and industrial activities. Today's warming has only taken about 150 years, compared to tens of thousands of years during a particularly fast warming period in the past known as the Paleo-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace