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Western Europeans wilt in early summer heatwave, compounding climate change fears

A farmer pours water on his face as he works in a greenhouse in southern France on June 17 as western Europe struggles with a heatwave.

(Reuters)Spain is seeing its hottest early summer temperatures, one area of France banned outdoor events, and drought stalked Italian farmers as a heatwave sent Europeans hunting for shade and fretting over climate change.

Such was the heat that England’s upscale Royal Ascot Racecourse even saw a rare change of protocol: guests were allowed to shed hats and jackets once the royals had passed.
“Avoid over-exposing to the sun, hydrate and take care of the most vulnerable so they don’t suffer from heat stroke,” was the advice from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid during an event, fittingly, about desertification.
Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Madrid on Friday, the national weather agency AEMET said. A level not seen so early in the year since 1981.
Northern Italian regions risk losing up to half their agricultural output due to a drought, a farm lobby said, as lakes and rivers start to run dangerously low, jeopardizing irrigation.
The federation of Italian utility companies, Utilitalia, warned this week that the country’s longest river, the Po, was experiencing its worst drought for 70 years, leaving many sections of the vast, northern waterway completely dried up.
The heatwave piled pressure on energy systems as demand for air-conditioning risks driving prices higher, adding to the challenge of building up stocks to protect against any further cuts to Russian gas supplies.
‘Health risk’
In France, the Gironde department around Bordeaux prohibited public events including concerts and those at indoor venues without air conditioning, a local official said.
“Everyone now faces a health risk,” Gironde prefect Fabienne Buccio told France Bleu radio.
Temperatures in many of France’s areas hit 40 Celsius for the first time this year on Thursday and were expected to peak on Saturday, climbing to 41-42 Celsius. A record night temperature for June, 26.8 Celsius, was recorded in Tarascon, southern France.
Fourteen administrative departments were on red alert, with schoolchildren told to stay at home in these areas. Speed limits were lowered in several regions, including around Paris, to limit exhaust emissions and a buildup of harmful smog.
Britain’s weather service said Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures above 32 Celsius in some parts of the southeast.
Parks, pools and beaches were packed, and while many enjoyed a day of fun and freedom after two years of periodic pandemic restrictions some were also worried.
“I’m from Cyprus and now in Cyprus it’s raining … and I’m boiling here, so something must change. We need to take precautions about the climate change sooner than later because undoubtedly it’s worrying for all of us,” said student Charlie Uksel, visiting Brighton, south of London.
“Now we are enjoying it, but for the long-term we might sacrifice.”
Mediterranean nations are more and more concerned about how climate change may affect their economies and lives.
“The Iberian peninsula is an increasingly dry area and our rivers’ flow is slower and slower,” Spanish leader Sanchez added.
Firefighters were battling wildfires in several parts of Spain, with Catalonia in eastern Spain and Zamora near the western border with Portugal the worst hit.
In Zamora, between 8,500 and 9,500 hectares turned to ashes.
The cloud of hot air was sparing Portugal on Friday, where temperatures were not as high as in other European nations, with Lisbon likely to reach 27 Celsius.
However, last month was the hottest May in 92 years, Portugal’s weather agency IPMA said. It warned that most of the territory is suffering from a severe drought.
Portugal’s reservoirs have low water levels, with the Bravura dam of the most affected at only 15% full.

U.S. Olympic Trials: Sydney McLaughlin smashes 400m hurdles world record, JuVaughn Harrison wins historic double

There is a historic heatwave gripping the Pacific Northwest, and with the air temperature reading 108 degrees and the temperature on the track around 140 degrees, all of it dangerous for athletes and spectators, U.S.A. Track & Field paused the final day of the meet on Sunday for several hours, letting the heat index improve a bit before resuming, though it was still 98 degrees when running resumed.

The final six events were held beginning at 8:30 p.m. PT, with the meet finishing just before 1 a.m. ET.

There has been a great deal of attention and high expectations on 21-year-old brooks shoes 400 meter hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, and she validated all of it in a major way in the final. Pushed by her rival, the reigning Olympic and World Champion Dalilah Muhammad, McLaughlin shattered the world record, becoming the first woman ever to run under 52 seconds in the event. McLaughlin’s time was 51.90s; Muhammad ran 52.42s.

The last three times McLaughlin and Muhammad have been on the track together, the world record was lowered: Muhammad first in the U.S. Championships in 2019, and again later that year in Doha at the World Championships, and now McLaughlin holds the crown.

The pair will be joined by University of Southern California star Anna Cockrell, who ran a lifetime best 53.70s for the third Olympic spot. Cockrell recently became just the second woman ever to win both the 100m and 400m hurdles events at the NCAA Championships, and after running both events at the Olympic Trials she has a lot of races in her legs over the last month but she can now rest and get ready for Tokyo.

Shamier Little was the favorite to make the team with McLaughlin and Muhammad, but she stretched too much for the eighth hurdle, clipping it with her trail foot, which caused her to stumble just enough to lose her momentum. She was fourth.

JuVaughn Harrison, who recently finished up his historic senior year at Louisiana State, made more history on Sunday, becoming the first American man since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to qualify for the Olympic team in both long jump and high jump.

He did it in style too, winning both events.

In high jump, held first, Harrison cleared 2.33m (7 feet, 7.75 inches). Then in the long jump — Harrison got a much longer rest thanks to the heat-induced pause — he soared to a personal-best 8.47m (27-9.5) on his fourth try.

Joining Harrison in high jump is University of Tennessee grad student Darryl Sullivan, who struggled at the lower heights, but would also clear 2.33m, and Shelby McEwen, who represented the U.S. at the World Championships in 2019 and jumped 2.30m (7-6.5).

Harrison’s long jump teammates are Marquis Dendy (8.38m, 27-6), who has been on two World Championship teams but was in that heartbreaking fourth-place finisher spot for the 2016 Rio Games, and Texas senior Steffin McCarter, who was just fifth at the NCAA Championships a couple of weeks ago but put together a much better series on Sunday night, matching his lifetime best of 8.26m (27-1.25) on his third jump, which held up and sends him to Tokyo.

The women’s 800m saw 19-year-old Athing Mu, who finished a phenomenal freshman season at Texas A&M and then turned skechers shoes pro this week, signing with Nike, once again lower her lifetime best. Her 1:56.07 was a new Trials record, the best time in the world so far this year, and less than a half-second off Ajeé Wilson’s American record.

World silver medalist in 2019 Raevyn Rogers was second in 1:57.66, a lifetime best, and Wilson clinched the third spot, finishing in 1:58.39 for her second Olympic berth.

Reigning world champion Noah Lyles won the men’s 200m in a world-leading 19.74s. Kenny Bednarek, who finished fourth in the 100m earlier in the meet, was second in a lifetime best 19.78s, and 17-year-old Floridian Erriyon Knighton was third in 19.84s, also a personal best.

Knighton is the youngest man to make the U.S. Olympic track and field team since Jim Ryun in 1964.

There was a thrilling finish in the men’s 1500m, with University of Oregon’s Cole Hocker out-kicking 2016 gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz for the win, 3:35.28 to 3:35.34. However, Hocker has not yet run the Olympic standard time of 3:35.00, which means he doesn’t automatically get to go to Tokyo. It’s up to USATF and World Athletics, the sport’s governing body, to decide if Hocker will be allowed to compete based in part on his world ranking; he’s currently ranked 42nd in the event.

The third-place finisher was Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse in 3:36.19; Nuguse broke the NCAA record in the event earlier this year.

The seventh and final event of the heptathlon, the 800m, was among the races pushed back, which was likely a welcome break for the women competing. After four events on Day 1, the second day began with the long jump and javelin throw. Just before the javelin began, Taliyah Brooks, who was in fourth place after five events, fainted and was brought to the hospital.

While U.S.A. Track & Field Games Committee did grant her request to re-enter the competition, Brooks ultimately decided to withdraw.

One other woman that deserves attention is Lindsay Flach. Just hey dude before the Trials began, Flach announced that she would be competing in her third Trials while 18 weeks pregnant. She did not fare well relative to her competition, finishing last among the 15 women who made it through all seven events, but it was inspiring to see her and her bump taking part. Flach started the 800m but only ran the first 100m before jogging off the track, likely out of caution for her health.

The Americans who are headed to Tokyo are Annie Kunz, Kendell Williams and Erica Bougard. Kunz came into Trials without the Olympic standard of 6420 points and had the meet of her life, posting lifetime bests in several events to get well above the standard with 6703 points. Williams was an Olympian in 2016, while Kunz and Bougard are headed to the Games for the first time.

In the men’s 5000m, 2016 Rio silver medalist Paul Chelimo won the event in 13:26.82; the second- and third-place finishers, Grant Fisher (13:27.01) and Woody Kincaid (13:27.13), had already earned tickets to Tokyo in the 10,000m on the first day of the meet 10 days earlier.