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Zookeepers resort to big iceblocks for tigers and airconditioned caves for pandas as Earth swelters

Reuters, AP, staff writers, July 25, 2019 7:00PM Kids News

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Polar bear Nanook takes a bath during extreme heat on July 24, 2019 at the zoo in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture: AP media_cameraPolar bear Nanook takes a bath during extreme heat on July 24, 2019 at the zoo in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture: AP


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Tigers are eating dinner that’s been frozen in giant ice blocks, bears are slurping iced watermelon and pandas are being encouraged to sit still and stay cool in special airconditioned caves as Europe suffers through the latest in a summer of record-breaking heatwaves.

Earth has just experienced its hottest June on record but climate scientists are predicting July will be even hotter.

And though Australia is in the middle of winter, the Bureau of Meteorology* (BOM) issued a bushfire warning for parts of NSW earlier this week with July temperatures set to come close to breaking records.

Zookeepers at Pairi Daiza Zoo in western Belgium had to use their imagination to keep the tigers, bears and pandas safe in the heat as the country hit 39.9C on Wednesday. This smashed the country’s previous high of 36.6C recorded in June 1947.

“We made caves with airconditioning inside for pandas, as they are the most vulnerable to such hot weather, but they still prefer to stay outside because they love the space,” zoo spokesman Mathieu Goedefroy said.

Forecasts were for an even hotter day for Belgium on Thursday.

VIDEO: These orang-utans are doing their best to stay cool at Vienna Zoo, Austria

The Netherlands hit its own record high of 38.8C, breaking a record set in 1944.

So did Germany, where the country’s meteorological* office said the record of 40.5C set on Wednesday would likely stand for a single day: another record was set to be broken again on Thursday.

06/08/2003 A polar bear stands in the water as he eats an ice block full of apples, fish and carrots at the Antwerp Zoo in Antwerp, Belgium, Wednesday August 6, 2003. Europe continued to swelter Wednesday under a heatwave which has sent temperatures soaring across the region. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo) media_cameraA polar bear stands in the water as he eats an ice block full of apples, fish and carrots at the Antwerp Zoo in Antwerp, Belgium. Picture: AP

In Paris, France, Thursday is forecast to be the hottest ever recorded for the capital city. The current record temperature is 40.4C. The architect in charge of rebuilding Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fire earlier this year said the heatwaves risked causing the collapse of the vaulted* ceiling.

media_cameraA woman cools herself down in the fountain of the Trocadero Esplanade in Paris on June 25, 2019 with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Picture: AFP

The UK could have its hottest ever day on Thursday. The UK’s Met* Office predicts the temperature will reach 39C in London and hit a record-breaking 40C in some parts of the UK. Humid conditions could make 40C feel like 44C, according to some forecasters.

Farther south in Europe, firefighters have been battling several serious bushfires in recent days in Portugal and Spain. Italian authorities have put 13 cities on their highest “red” weather alert.

It's probably not all that comfortable, but when it's this hot, a cat has to cool down any way it can, even if it means blocking everyone's access to the ice-creams. Picture: split media_cameraIt’s probably not all that comfortable, but when it’s this hot, a cat has to cool down any way it can, even if it means blocking everyone’s access to the ice-creams. Picture:

Canada and the US are also experiencing a record-breaking heatwave this week, the latest of several already this northern summer across North America. In the first few days of July the northern US state of Alaska — which spends much of the year covered in ice and snow — was hit by extreme heat, with state capital Anchorage reaching a record 32C.

VIDEO: Europe’s recent extreme heatwave explained

Australia’s BOM issued a bushfire warning for parts of NSW on Tuesday. In a tweet*, the BOM wrote: “As bizarre as it sounds midwinter — parts of NSW are likely to see elevated bushfire risk today.”

Parts of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, however, experienced cold, wintry weather, including snow in alpine areas.

Is winter in Australia getting warmer?

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded.

Global readings taken by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) showed European temperatures were around 2C hotter than normal, and globally Earth was 0.1C hotter than the previous June record.

media_cameraThe sun rises near power lines in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 ahead of another record-breaking hot day. Picture: AP

The Copernicus team said it was difficult to attribute the record-breaking month “directly” to climate change. But a separate analysis from an international team of scientists said global warming had made the heatwave at least five times more likely.

Michael Mann, head of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University in the US tweeted about the record-breaking month of June: “This is significant. But stay tuned for July numbers. July is the warmest month of the year globally. If this July turns out to be the warmest July (it has a good shot at it), it will be the warmest month we have measured on Earth.”

In late June, the World Meteorological Organisation said 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years, and 2015-2019 the hottest five-year period on record.

Summer in Oslo. media_cameraBoats sail past the crowded bathing area at Sorenga in Oslo at the Norwegian capital’s inner harbour pool on July 24. Picture: AFP


  • Bureau of Meteorology: Australia’s government weather agency
  • meteorological: science of forecasting weather
  • vaulted: arched
  • Met: short name for the UK’s government weather agency
  • tweet: message on Twitter


Australia’s record heat

America shivers through record big freeze

Rain events getting bigger, faster

Our cities could be too hot to live in


  1. How are zookeepers helping pandas in a Belgian zoo?
  2. What temperature did Anchorage reach in early July?
  3. What did the BOM tweet about NSW warn earlier this week?
  4. What month of the year is usually the hottest globally?
  5. What significant statistic is mentioned about the five years 2015-2019?


1. Beating the heat tips!
Europe is experiencing a hotter than normal summer with temperatures reaching and exceeding 40C. Some places in Australia experience temperatures like this regularly during summer.

In a heatwave it is important to keep cool. How do you keep cool in summer?

Make a list of your top 10 tips that you can share with our northern hemisphere friends to beat the heat in the northern summer.

Present your tips on an A4-sized poster with illustrations that can be displayed in public places to help people.

Think of a catchy heading to entice people to read your poster.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
Although it has been said that it is difficult to attribute this heatwave directly to climate change, it possibly has made the likelihood of a heatwave more likely.

Why are rising temperatures a concern to us all?

Write a list of the ways that increasing temperatures are impacting all aspects of our society and environment.

Some examples include: artic ice melting, people and animals suffering from heat, droughts. There are many articles on Kids News that outline how climate change is impacting us and the environment. Do a search under Weather or Environment to help you.

There are also articles about how we can prevent or slow down climate change.

Write a list of ways that we as a society or you as an individual can prevent/reduce further climate change.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Sustainability

Ways to Keep Cool
Today you are going to help the animals around the world out a little bit. Some are really struggling to keep cool in this heatwave and the animals in captivity are being looked after, but what about the ones in the wild?

Or pets at home? Do the pet owners understand how hot it’s getting in the house while they are at work? Or whether there is enough water and shade outside?

Decide if you are going to write about pets or wild animals.

Then make an informative poster on different ways humans can help keep animals keep cool, or speaking directly to the animals themselves.

When you list the different ways, remember to use either numbers (1., 2., 3. Etc) or dot points to help organise your information. Every new idea will need a new line too.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How do you or any pets stay cool in extreme heat? Is it hot or cold where you are?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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