As Europe wilts under the sun the heatwave sees temperature reach 40C in Spain

People enjoy the beach, near to the Baltic Sea in Germany. Credit: AP

As an early heatwave has left Europe flocking to the shade, experts have warned that it will only become more common as global warming continues, Vincent McAviney reports.

People flocked to parks and pools across Europe for a bit of respite from the early heat wave that saw the mercury rise above 40C in France and Spain.

A blanket of hot air stretching from the Mediterranean to the North Sea is bringing much of Western Europe its first heatwave of the summer. Meteorologists say the weather is a sign of what's to come as global warming continues, moving up in the calendar the temperatures that Europe would previously have seen only in July and August.

In France, some 18 million people woke to heatwave alerts affecting about a third of the country Friday.

People relax in the shade in the gardens of the Palais Royal. Credit: AP

Forest fire warnings were issued from the Pyrenees in the south to the Paris region.

Parisians and tourists were seeking shade and some even jumped into the Trocadero fountain to cool off on Saturday.

Marc Noden, tourist from Manchester said: "We are only here for a couple of days so we have just done everything we were going to do anyway with just plenty of ice-creams and lots of water."

While in Spain, thousands of acres of wooded hill land have been consumed by wildfires forced the evacuation of more than 1,700 people from more than a dozen villages.

Service on the high-speed AVE line between Madrid and Galicia had to be suspended as the blaze in the Sierra de Culebra mountain range continued.

Officials said the fire in the Sierra de Culebra mountain range in the province of Zamora started during a dry electric storm.

In the UK, the Met Office is urging people to stay indoors where possible as the south of England is struck by a “huge cluster” of thunderstorms.

As temperatures plummeted from Friday’s highs of 32C, the forecaster issued a lightning warning that it has only used a “handful” of times before.

Meteorologist Becky Mitchell said a cold front from the north was responsible for the sudden temperature shift.

“It felt like it was just getting into summer but it’s cooler now,” she said.

“Lots of places in the UK have seen a temperature drop of about 10 to 15 degrees in some places, which is massive.

“We’ve got a huge cluster of thunderstorms in the south west of England, there’s potential we could see some in the South East later on tonight.”

The Met Office have issued a thunder warning. Credit: PA

The Met Office has only issued a lightning warning three times before, most recently in 2019.

“If you are doing any outdoor activities move inside if you can – that’s the best advice really,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Stay away from any power lines or anything like that which could potentially be struck by the lightning.

“If you do find yourself in an exposed location stay close to the ground, away from anything that could conduct lightning.”

Although the weather seen on Friday is unlikely for the immediate future, it looks set to improve in time for the Glastonbury Festival next week.

Temperatures could reach around 26C on Thursday, before cooling as the event winds to a close over the weekend.