France recorded its highest temperature since records began at 45 Celsius on Friday afternoon.
Temperatures in France crossed the 45 Celsius threshold for the first time since records began on Friday.
Meteo France said 45.1 Celsius was recorded in Villevieille, in the south-eastern Gard department at 2.59 pm CEST, beating a one-hour-old record of 44.3 Celsius in Carpentras, Provence.
The meteorology agency warned that temperatures could rise even further throughout the afternoon and said: "We need to wait until the end of the day to know which town will hold the record as France's hottest city."
The previous record was set at 44.1 Celsius during a heatwave in 2003.
France's weather service on Thursday raised the heatwave alert from orange to red in four southern departments — another first. Hundreds of schools have been closed and some end-of-year exams have been rescheduled.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has called on people to be responsible, warning that the heat encouraged people to take risks, adding there had been "one drowning a day" during the heatwave.
Read more: Hundreds of schools closed throughout France as temperatures top 40C
A heatwave has struck the whole European continent this week.
In the Spanish city of Cordoba, a 17-year-old boy died on Thursday of heatstroke, according to authorities, while wildfires have ravaged nearly 10,000 acres across Catalonia — the blazes are said to be among the worst the region has seen in 20 years.
Why has the heatwave gripped Europe this month?
According to Jonny Day from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), this is not the first example of such a phenomenon.
"In terms of the time of year and spatial pattern of warmth, the ongoing event in Europe is quite similar to the 2015 European heatwave, which most severely affected southern and central Europe, which set the all-time temperature records for Germany and Switzerland," Day said, adding that we will need to wait until after the peak of this event to really know how severe it has been.
Europeans have been sweltering as temperatures reached between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius in most of France and Italy this week and they are potentially set to go as high as 40 Celsius in northern Spain. Forecasts showed temperatures much higher than average in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
A hot air mass rising from North Africa has caused the mercury to soar.
The new normal?
Meteorologists warned earlier this month that heatwaves could be a trend for summer in Europe this year due to high-pressure systems.
Anca Brookshaw, an expert on seasonal prediction at ECMWF Copernicus explained this trend to Euronews: “The most recent seasonal prediction favours above-average temperatures over much of Europe, for the period July to September as a whole.
"While the seasonal average is not a perfect indicator of the risk of heatwaves (or of the severity of any such events), over Europe there is a direct correlation: seasons which include more heatwaves than usual are likely to record above-average seasonal means."
The areas indicated as most at risk by this forecast are southwest Europe and the extreme eastern part of the continent.
According to the European Environment Agency, 2018 was among the three warmest years on record in Europe.
Euronews spoke to Dr Dim Como, an expert on climate change and extreme weather at Amsterdam University, who said: “Due to simple warming, due to global warming, these type of heat extremes are much more likely. So if you have the circulation that can bring heatwaves then heatwaves will be much more intense.”