In 2003, a vicious month-long heatwave hit France. Temperatures across the country rose above 40°C (104°F). Close to 15,000 people died.
Fifteen years later, the country is gearing up for round two. Temperatures in some parts of France are expected to peak at 45°C (113°F) this week—the highest June temperatures on record for the country, according to meteorological service Météo France—as gusts of very hot air flow northward from the Sahara desert.
These types of extreme weather events are becoming more common globally, and have been shown by research groups like the World Weather Attribution Project to be linked to climate change. The project, an international consortium of academic and meteorological institutes which conducts real-time research into this type of intense weather, showed that last year’s northern European heatwave, which featured record-breaking temperatures, wildfires, and giant algae blooms, was significantly more likely to have happened because of human-caused climate change.
Things are expected to get particularly bad in France between Thursday and Saturday. The government has a plan (link in French) to protect vulnerable people from the heat which includes temporarily installing fountains and public pools in densely populated areas, distributing water bottles, checking-in on elderly people, encouraging homeless people to cool off in municipal spaces, installing fans in preschools and daycare centers, and more.
The country has also taken some extraordinary steps, like postponing the national middle school exams, known as brevet. FIFA, the international governing body of football associations, said it is prepared to add additional water breaks (link in French) or even reschedule the matches of the 2019 Women’s World Cup set to take place in the French cities of Le Havre, Paris, Valenciennes, and Rennes this week.
French people don’t typically have air conditioning, so hiding out at home and blasting the AC isn’t an option for most. Here are a few examples of the more creative approaches being taken across France: