Ever wake up, get dressed, and step out the door to be greeted with a wave of ultra-hot air? Whether you’re located in the tropics or the subarctic, there’s little doubt you’ve felt that burst of warm air as you stepped outside of your home, mostly during the middle of summer. For some cities, it’s a near-blanket of tropical humidity and misty – a high-30s heat wave that forces you inside with the air conditioning cranked up.
For other cities, it’s a dry, arid heat – the type of temperature that makes concentration impossible and physical exertion a dream. Whether you fight it with a cool drink or a day huddled in front of the air conditioner is anyone’s guess – these days aren’t comfortable, and there’s no doubt about it.
We’ve found six truly devastating heat waves and hot weather events, each located in a different part of the world. From Chicago to Shanghai; Melbourne to Buenos Aires, these six heat waves brought sudden heat, devastating commercial effects, and potentially lethal disruption to the globe. Fans of a good old air conditioning service best close their eyes, but tanning gurus and hot weather fanatics will love these extreme heat waves.
1. The 2003 French Heat Wave
France’s 2003 heat wave was one of the most economically and socially devastating events in recent history. With almost the entire European continent affected by record temperatures and severe drought, a number of crop failures and agricultural setbacks pushed South and Central Europe’s countries into a spin.
However, few countries were hurt more than France. With over 30,000 deaths throughout Europe and multi-billion dollar financial damage, the heat wave’s epicenter was located directly above France’s central region. Temperatures were dangerously high from Paris all the way to Marseilles, with some cities experiencing heat well above 40ºC – a major change from France’s relatively temperate central conditions.
2. The Great Depression ‘Dust Bowl’ Years
The 1930s weren’t a great time to be American. There was the Great Depression – a sever economic downturn in the wake of some short-sighted financial decisions. There was also the ultra-cold winter of 1935 – one of the coldest and most disruptive on record. Finally, there was the the North American heat wave – one of the most extreme climate events in history, and a major source of health and financial woes at one of the United States’ worst points.
Piece it all together and you’re left with a fairly nasty decade. Unfortunately, the 1930s weren’t the best decade to experience a heat wave – air conditioning had yet to be invented, and due to the ongoing depression, most public buildings had severely reduced service and operating budgets. Besides sweating it out 24/7, most of the United States’ population were struggling to piece things together financially.
3. Southeast Australia’s Six-Day Fire and Sun Wave
Australia’s international reputation may paint it as the ‘warm’ continent, but in reality its southern corners can see some pretty extreme cool points during the year. From Melbourne to Adelaide; Hobart to ACT, Australia’s southern points experience a cool winter and relatively Spartan summer temperatures, with daytime temperatures rarely exceeding 30ºC.
It’s amazing then, that the region’s temperatures saw such a surge in early 2009. Record high temperatures – well above 40ºC in some cities, and over 46ºC in Melbourne – saw the giant country’s southern areas turn into an arid desert overnight. Following severe fires in the area surrounding Melbourne, the state of Victoria was put under alert – residents sat inside their houses watching the sky fill with drifting smoke.
>>> Part Two