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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Think it's hot in the UAE? Spare a thought for muggy Montreal and boiling Belfast

Britain and Canada hit record heights this summer but nowhere - in the world - was hotter than a small village in Oman

Women and children play in the water fountains at the Place des Arts in Montreal. A heatwave in Quebec has killed at least 17 people in the past week. Eva Hambach / AFP
Women and children play in the water fountains at the Place des Arts in Montreal. A heatwave in Quebec has killed at least 17 people in the past week. Eva Hambach / AFP

It’s summer and it’s hot. Pushing into the mid-40s, plus humidity. We know that. We live in the UAE.

Spare a thought though, for the Canadian province of Quebec. In cities like Montreal the population effectively hibernates for months, shopping in underground malls with heated tunnels to escape the biting cold.

This week, temperatures in Quebec have felt like the mid-40s with humidity, prompting the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau to tweet: “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have died in Quebec during this heat wave.”

At least 18 deaths are attributed to this spell of hot weather, all in older age groups. But people do not usually die from the heat in Canada, where it drops down to minus 50C in some parts and the city of Saguenay – in Quebec – has an average temperature of 8.2 Celsius. That’s all year.

In Saguenay last Thursday it was 36C. The city’s title of the lowest daily maximum temperature in all Canada is at risk.

It is hot all over the northern hemisphere this July. The UK is experiencing what is sometime called barbecue weather, as evidenced by the photographs of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, wielding a kebab over charcoal on a birthday trip to Britain this week.

People cool off in a water fountain on a hot summer day in Tbilisi, Georgia, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili
People cool off in a water fountain on a hot summer day in Tbilisi on July 2. Reuters

Much of the UK has been sweltering in the 30s, with wildfires breaking out on moorland in the north of England and parts of Scotland experiencing the hottest days since 1893, when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

Both Belfast and Glasgow have experienced their hottest days of record, and even if by UAE standards, 29.5C and 33.2C are nothing more than a nice spring day, in cities where air conditioning is unknown, they can make life very uncomfortable.

If the hot spell continues, it is predicted to break records set 42 years ago, during the famous Summer of ’76, when the government was forced to appoint a minister for drought, offering useful advice like “save water, bath with a friend” and with hosepipe ban patrol vans roaming the streets

In England, the heatwave of 2018 has vied with the progress of the national team in the World Cup for newspaper headlines, which also reveal the traditional uncertainty of UK summer weather, as in 'Britain Will Boil for WEEKS in July Scorcher', (Daily Express) and 'Britain facing sudden 10C temperature DROP and HUGE thunderstorms,' (also Daily Express).

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Unusually hot weather has also hit much of the US, where Denver has equalled its previous hottest day at 40.6C. This year’s heatwave in the northern hemisphere, is attributed to El Niño, the cycle of warm water in the Pacific which develops every three to five years, but a number of scientists believe the effects have been exacerbated by climate change.

It is also unusually hot in parts of Central Asia, attributed to a dome of high pressure that has brought temperatures in the 40s to both Tbilisi in Georgia and Yerevan in Armenia. Further east, in Seoul, the monsoon season has brought temperatures that are both hot and humid and complaints about the reliability of the air conditioning in the city's metro system.

Nowhere though is feeling the heat more than Quriyat, a small fishing village south of Muscat, where for 24 hours last month never fell below 46.2C and actually stayed that way for 51 hours.

That spell earned Quriyat two world records. It recorded the highest night-time temperature ever recorded, at 44.2 on June 17, and the title of the highest low temperature in history.

Town twinning with Saguenay in Quebec is, presumably, only a matter of time.