Flames of Fire: Heatwaves in Europe and How to Protect Animals From It

Europe is feeling a bit hellish right now due to an intense heatwave. Probably France suffers most, since the country has the highest temperature in recorded history at 45.9 degrees Celsius. And now where I live, which is a tropical country, the temperature during the day is a bit cooler than ever at only around 29 to 31 degrees. Can’t imagine what the French is going through right now.

Situation got so bad that French and Italian officials declared a “red alert” weather warning. Other countries in Europe stepped up precautions, from closing schools to making sure water is provided to the homeless and anyone in need.

Now, 45 degrees is a big deal because it beat a temperature record set in 2003, when a heat wave killed 15,000 people in France. And so far, this heat wave has taken seven deaths, including the deaths of two cyclists. What’s worse is that some French people died of shock after plunging into cold water to escape the heat earlier this week. Two other people in Italy have died from heatstroke.

According to the BBC, Germany, France, Poland and the Czech Republic have all recorded their highest-ever June temperatures. Additionally, firefighters in Spain have contained wildfires that have devastated 10,000 acres of Catalonia, but other fires continue to burn.

Miquel Buch. Catalonia’s interior minister, said the fire likely started when the high temperatures caused improperly stored chicken manure to combust at a farm. Then, the combination of high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds caused the fire to spread the fire was said to be on a scale not seen for 20 years.

temperature prediction from NASA taken in June 2019
temperature prediction from NASA taken in June 2019

These temperatures are way above average that they put people in danger, particularly people who aren’t prepared for this type of heat. Officials have advised people to drink lots of water, stay out of the sun, and avoid strenuous activity when temperatures are hottest from midday through the afternoon.

CNN senior meteorologist Brandon Miller said, “When it is 105 (in Fahrenheit) in Phoenix or Kuwait, it is not nearly as big of a deal as if it is 105 in Chicago or Paris. But when summer temperatures are routinely in the 70s, like in northern Europe or the West Coast of the U.S., many places do not have air conditioning. This can turn deadly fast if heat waves strike and last for several days.”

It’s true that Europe does experience heatwaves, but this one is unusually early. Experts said that climate change exacerbates this condition.

Stefan Rahmstorf, a climatologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said, “Monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate. This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas.”

Of course, heatwaves like these will just get worse if we don’t stop trying to make our environment better. If countries do not cut their greenhouse-gas emissions soon heatwaves will be worse.

Read also: Are We Really Going To Replace Fossil Fuel With Liquid Sun?

Protecting your fur babies (and other animals from heat wave)

A wild hawk cooling off at the birdbath. Photo by Mike's Wikimedia Commons
A wild hawk cooling off at the birdbath. Photo by Mike’s Wikimedia Commons

Now, if you live in Europe (or somewhere that’s hot) and you’ve got your fur babies or best friends or some wildlife that usually come to your house, you should definitely keep them safe from heat. First, let’s talk about saving wild critters.

One important thing to do is making sure wild critters have enough water and easy access to it. “Having convenient supplies of clean water can make a huge difference to the survival of local wild species such as birds, butterflies and small mammals, during times of extreme heat and drought,” said National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

Simply make sure that there’s a birdbath in your yard and that the water is clean and fresh because you certainly don’t want mosquitoes laying eggs in it. The NWF recommends setting up a drip jug near the birdbath, something that will allow water to fall into the birdbath. Once there, they’ll drink and cool off.

Read also: Everything is Warming Now That Mount Everest is Showing Its Deceased Climbers

For animals such as hedgehogs, wild rabbits, or chipmunks, give them shallow bowls of water to make sure they get the hydration they need. If you don’t have any small bowls, then the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) recommends placing a stick or stone in a bigger bowl so that the animal can climb its way out of the bowl after they’ve finished drinking.

It’s better if you leave something to drink rather than eat. Experts said water is more important to the animals’ overall survival. They can get by without food for a bit, but not water. And, the RSPCA advises against feeding wildlife.

If you have a garden and you maintain it well, then you’ll help them more. Lush gardens can provide shade to some animals which might need it. Covering your beds with mulch will also help the soil stay a bit moist, and that will help worms and other insects. Water, of course, plays a part in this, and keeping your plants watered will attract insects that rely on the plants for food.

Sometimes, water isn’t what the wildlife need, especially if they need some assistance with heat stress. Animals get overheated and dehydrated, the same as we do, and they manifest some of the same symptoms, including confusion, a loss of balance and collapsing.

If you see animals that are normally in the trees on the ground, or if they’re normally nocturnal or elusive and you see them in broad daylight, chances are something is wrong.

You might have seen videos of people giving water to exhausted or dehydrated snakes, birds, rabbits, etc. If you feel it’s safe to help them, then you should do it. But if you don’t, contact animal services or veterinarians instead.

Cat pants because of the heat. Photo by EEIM Wikimedia Commons
Cat pants because of the heat. Photo by EEIM Wikimedia Commons

Now that we know a bit about helping wild critters, let’s move on to our fur babies. If you have outdoor cats/dogs, then it’s better to put them inside until the heat stops. Hot pavements or hot asphalt have really high temperature and they will burn your pets’ paws. How do you know if they’re hot? Step on them with your barefoot or place the back of your hand on the ground. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your furry friends.

“It’s best to stay away from cement pathways as much as possible. But avoiding the cement doesn’t have to mean shying away from exercise,” said Aly DelaCoeur, an animal behaviorist and veterinary assistant in Seattle.

Cats are in a way smarter than dogs in this case (not trying to shade dogs or bring the same old arguments about dogs > cats and vice versa). “If the cat is primarily an outdoor cat, though, then she has learned what surfaces get hot and not to walk on them,” said DelaCoeur. But still, cats can make mistakes too.

Other than keeping your pets indoors during hot weather, it’s best to provide lots of water as well. If you’re feeling generous, give them ice cubes and/or cold water.

Read also: Ridiculous Things Climate Change Can Do To Kill Us All




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.