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Women’s World Cup Gets a New Opponent: Europe’s Blistering Heatwave

In France this week, as temperatures may climb above 104F (40C), the Women’s World Cup must go on, but with some adjustments.

After a brief break on Wednesday, the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals begin Thursday. Luckily, two of those matches are scheduled to happen later in the day, after the midday heat has dissipated:

  • 9 p.m. CET Thursday: Norway vs. England in Le Havre. This northern coastal city is anticipated to see a high of 80F (27C) on Thursday—on the cooler end, relatively speaking.
  • 9 p.m. Friday: France vs. United States in Paris. France’s capital is expected to see a high of 92F (33C) on Friday, though by the evening the temperature should drop into the 80s.
  • 3 p.m. Saturday: Italy vs. Netherlands in Valenciennes. This city near the Belgian border will see high temperatures of 92F (33C) on Saturday.
  • 6:30 p.m. Saturday: Germany vs. Sweden in Rennes. This city west of Paris is also expected to reach temperatures of 92F (33C) on Saturday.

Under normal circumstances, spectators are banned from bringing any bottles or drink containers into stadiums, but because of the heat, FIFA allowed attendees of Monday’s match in Paris to bring in outside water bottles.

FIFA also may implement cooling breaks for players, with three-minute pauses for water at the 30- and 75-minute marks, if temperatures reach 90F (32C) inside the stadiums. Such breaks were first allowed during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which also experienced scorching heat. If the weather is extreme enough, FIFA could also postpone games.

France’s national weather agency forecast temperatures of up to 104F (40C) across the country just as the summer tourist season approaches. The heat warning level for the country is at orange, the second-highest intensity on its four-tier categorization system. Paris is opening cooling rooms in public buildings around the city where residents can hide out during the hottest hours of the day, and some swimming pools will have extended hours.

Record highs are also expected in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Temperatures above 40C (104F) are possible in some areas of Germany on Wednesday, which would top the country’s previous June record of 100.8F (38.2C) set in 1947. Parts of Brandenburg in northeastern Germany, near Berlin, are also at high risk for forest fires.

Meteorologists are already comparing this heatwave to one in 2003, which had a death toll of 70,000; 15,000 of those fatalities were in France. Early summer heatwaves tend to be more deadly than those that come in July or August, according to the World Meteorological Organization, because people have not yet had time to adapt to the seasonal heat.

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