I need to preface this, as I have developed the power to foresee comments, by emphasizing that I have enjoyed every single minute of this long vacation I have been fortunate enough in circumstances to take. Would do again in a heartbeat and would not trade it for anything. Also, this is not a post about beverage ice, which no longer requires discussion because I am so unbelievably correct on that point.
It's hot here, guys. Balls hot.
Every day of this trip I've sweat through all of my clothes and peeled them off at the end of the day wondering if I jumped in a lake and just don't remember doing so. Here I was expecting that famous Adriatic / Mediterranean climate, and instead it's eerily similar to "pit stains by noon" season in Chicago. So I am not surprised to see a headline like "Europe’s summer was so hot that tropical flamingos laid eggs for the first time in 15 years." There have been record highs everywhere. It was 95 in Prague. 97 in Vienna. And reader, I shit you not, my car thermometer (for what that's worth) registered 37 Celsius in Slovenia of all places, which is over 100 F. That isn't "hot for Europe;" that's just hot.
The highs matter here because this part of the world is, very reasonably and logically, not equipped to handle "Balls Hot." It's never this hot here, so why should they bother air conditioning everything or organize any of their routine around it being literally too hot to move for part of the day. It would be like building a home with a double-thick door up on stilts on the off-chance that it is ever -50 F in Chicago. It just wouldn't make sense.
No, things are set up quite logically for an area where summer means "it might hit the low 80s, but don't worry because if it does we can just sit in the shade until it passes." I can promise you that the sipping a barely-cold beverage in the shade when it's 95 is, well, it's still pretty fucking hot. That's the difference between peaking at 85 and peaking nearer to 100.
And it raises the troubling question of what precisely the effects will be if 95 degree summers become the new normal in places that have not previously experienced it. It's not automatic that it will become normal, of course. This year could be anomalous, and it's not unprecedented (note the "in 15 years" in the WaPo headline). But what happens when a region prepared to handle Hot is suddenly upgraded to Hot-Hot?
The thing is, this kind of heat kills people. Talk about the Mediterranean breeze all you want, but elderly people in un-air conditioned apartments are not all gonna make it if they had to experience 2-3 months of the mid-90s. I have lived in one place where summer means that it's 98 every single day from Memorial Day to late September (Athens, GA) and dealing with it requires building a lifestyle around it. Everything is air conditioned to "Ice Station Zebra" levels because you couldn't get anything done while the sun is up otherwise. And of course it helps a ton that Americans do most of their place-to-place travel in an air conditioned car. So although it is definitely a hot, sweaty experience, it's survivable. People in Texas and Arizona are getting used to 110 being a long-term normal high and they survive the same way.
If Europe's continental climate turns into the American Midwest – the brutal extremes of summer heat and winter cold – patterns of energy consumption are likely to change in ways that will require beefing up infrastructure. Many homes and apartments here are far too old for structural changes to deal with hotter weather – I get the sense that a place like Budapest or Prague has the buildings it has, and isn't about to tear them down and build new ones.
But nothing changing isn't going to be an option. Believe me, the fat, pampered American and German tourists were not the only ones reeling from the heat. The locals looked equally stunned, and neither group seemed to find "Sit for a second and have a warm Coke" satisfactory as a solution. America has exported a lot of things to Europe, and a lot of it has been questionably useful (Burger King, Lil' Pump, etc). I hope we don't add our sometimes insane climate to the list.