A man in southern Sweden was recently fined more than $2,000 for turning on the grill in his own yard.
Simple plastic table fans, sold out across the country months ago, could be found on the local version of eBay for $200 a pop.
These are just a few unusual consequences of an unexpected heat wave that has been wreaking havoc on many parts of Scandinavia for months. The rest of Europe has been suffering record heat and drought as well.
We North Carolinians may not think much of temperatures in the 90s or even pushing 100, but we have air conditioning in our homes or at a nearby store, restaurant or mall. Relief is never far away.
The problem with heat in Europe is that A/C is not the norm in most homes. Even shopping malls have struggled to bring down the temperature. The heat has lasted so long that the few air-conditioning systems that do work are breaking.
Sweden started dealing with the heat earlier this year. May of 2018 was the warmest May on record — ever. It was welcomed after a long, cold and dark winter. But by July, which was also the warmest on record, the high temperatures coupled with all that midnight sun were getting old. Add to that a record drought and the authorities banned cooking outdoors. Offenders got fined.
Forest fires raged across Sweden. The Italians sent their helicopter water bombers. The Polish sent their firemen. Stores sold out of fans, and authorities had to scramble to collect the fans they could from schools to help the elderly in retirement homes.
How bad has it been? Here’s a small example. It was so bad that the water-based varnish on the meeting room tables at some offices started turning sticky.
Here’s a bigger example: They have been considering shutting down the nuclear power plants because the water is no longer cool enough to cool the necessary components. And speaking of warm water, in Germany the freshwater fish have been dying from lack of oxygen in rivers and ponds with the temperature change. Firemen there used their water to replenish the streams and save the fish.
By and large, the established office buildings have access to A/C, but the systems are often built to recirculate air with much less humidity. Extended periods of heat has brought higher humidity, making it not unusual to suddenly have water start dripping on your computer from the duct work above.
Not a day seems to go by without a new record being set in Europe. Everyone is suffering and will continue to suffer from knock-on effects on farmers and food. Crops are shriveling. Even brewers warn there may be less beer with a wheat and hops shortage expected.
There has been no escape from the heat. Further south, the African heat has been rising into Europe, pushing temperatures in Portugal to 115 degrees. European authorities told vacationers to stay home and not travel south on vacation. In London, area trains stopped working (ok. that happens all the time, but still…)
As we enter our fourth month of heat in Stockholm, I might just start banging my head against the wall if I have to watch another episode of the evening news that leads with climate change and global warming as the top news item. Not even earthquakes or major political scandals have been able to knock that story from the lead.
The argument is that the jet stream is weak because of damage we’ve done to the climate, bringing us global warming. It’s a statement you can agree with or disagree with. Either way, after months of the same debate on the news, I’m hoping for something else — anything else — to take over as the lead story.
As I write this, though, I fear I might regret that wish. Elections are around the corner here, and in many countries, and who knows what might happen. We all might be wishing the news would go back to the weather.