Why? This is a weather map for midday on 5 August 2003. It shows an area of high pressure over most of western Europe. Air is moving around the high in a clockwise direction, bring a hot, dry tropical continental air mass to the UK at this time. This pattern occurred for much of the rest of the month. High pressure areas usually bring little cloud and warm conditions in summer.
'Low rainfall' 20-40% less than normal. 'Very low rainfall' more than 40% less than normal.
Rivers/ Lakes The River Danube in Serbia fell to its lowest level in 100 years. This allowed World War 2 bombs and tanks to be revealed for the first time. These caused a danger to people swimming in the rivers. Reservoirs and rivers used for public water supply and hydroelectric schemes either dried up or ran low.
Glaciers 10% of the Alpine glacial mass melted Glaciers were melting rapidly and swelling rivers and lakes to dangerously high levels. Matterhorn 4478 m
Fires Terra Daily LISBON (AFP) Aug 22, 2003 This was the largest area of Portugal hit by forest fires Forest fires destroyed at least 330,000 hectares in Portugal, new record.
35,000 Deaths in five nations Health Thirty-two thousand fatalities makes it an enormous natural disaster." According to Janet Larsen of the Earth Policy Institute (EPI),
nuclear plant shutdowns It is thought that one third of the deaths caused by the heatwave in the UK were caused by poor air quality. Pollution
Tourism At Bournemouth, in Dorset, the coastline was crammed with about 100,000 sun lovers, and there was said to be no spare space on the sand. Britain has recorded its hottest day ever as the temperature soared to 38.1C (100.6F) in Gravesend, Kent.
Transport Roads to the south and west were jammed as motorists headed out of the sweltering cities Speed restrictions to prevent buckled rails have been in force on the railways from noon each day while temperatures continue above 30C.
Drought: Wheat crops failed by 10% for the whole of Europe. Farming Grape: The heat wave greatly accelerated the ripening of grapes.