It's official: Belgium experiencing exceptional September heatwave

It's official: Belgium experiencing exceptional September heatwave
Credit: Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck

Belgium is officially experiencing a September heatwave, thought to be the first in its history although this has yet to be confirmed by the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI).

The summer holidays may be over but summer itself is only now showing its true colours in Belgium, where the heat continues to hold the country in its grasp. On Friday morning at 11:00, temperatures exceeded the 25°C mark for the fifth consecutive day in Uccle, a condition for this meteorological episode to be considered a heatwave.

Additionally, the maximum temperature recorded at the weather station in Uccle has passed 30°C for four days in a row (temperatures need to reach or surpass 30°C for at least three days to qualify as a "heatwave").

Tweet translation: "Over 25 degrees now in Uccle, nationwide heatwave is now official."

This marks the second heatwave Belgium has experienced this year – the first lasted from 8 to 17 June – but possibly also the first time the country has recorded a heatwave so late on in the year.

Belgian first?

According to the RMI, similarly high temperatures were recorded in September during previous years, including in 1919: on 12 September of this year, temperatures reached 34.6°C in Leopoldsburg and 32.5°C in Uccle.

However, before 1968, temperatures were measured in open thermometer huts, meaning the maximum temperatures measured were too high due to the effect of solar and ambient radiation. To make all observations comparable, a correction must be applied that slightly cools the open-hut maximum temperatures.

"The maximum temperatures observed in September 1919 and then corrected for radiation do not meet the criteria used for heatwaves," Pascal Mailier, a meteorologist at the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI), told The Brussels Times. "So by definition and taking into account the corrections needed to compare observations before and after 1968, this is the first heatwave in September."

He explained that much of southern Europe experienced a scorching summer that shattered many records, which resulted in the air coming from the southern regions of the continent being drier and warmer than normal.

"And, needless to say, this is completely in line with the trends predicted by climate models. The most remarkable thing about this heatwave is that it occurred particularly late, at the beginning of meteorological autumn, after two summer months that were predominantly cool and wet in our regions," concluded.

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The current heat wave started on 4 September and will last at least eight days (possibly nine days with Tuesday 12 September added).

On Thursday, the daily record was already broken at 30.2°C. The previous record for that day, dating back to 1911, was 29.5°C. On Wednesday, the daily heat record was also broken.

As a result of the continued warm temperatures, code yellow for heat has been issued for all provinces, except the coastal region and the province of Luxembourg, while the Federal and Regional Governments activated the warning phases of their ozone and heat plans.

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