Holidaymakers in Spain and Portugal have been warned to stay out of the sun as the region approaches the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.
Eight Portuguese regions have already smashed their local records as a warm blast of air from North Africa sweeps the continent.
At least three people in Spain have reportedly died from heatstroke as temperatures crept towards 47C, and experts warn that even higher peaks could be on the way.
Hundreds of firefighters and aircraft battled a massive blaze in Portugal’s Algarve, with local fire departments across the region on high alert after the events that devastated parts of Greece and Sweden in recent weeks.
Regional weather services have put a health warning in place until Sunday, with the heatwave expected to be especially severe in the south west.
In the UK, the Met Office has warned the public to stay out of the sun as the South East approaches relatively mild temperatures of 32C, and said anyone travelling in southern Europe should exercise particular caution.
“It’s going to get very hot in parts of Spain and Portugal today, and Spanish and Portuguese Met services do have some warnings out,” said Becky Mitchell, a meteorologist at the Met Office.
“We are looking at temperatures rising into the mid-40s in some parts of Spain.
“As always the advice is very similar to what it would be at home in such extreme temperatures. Spend as much time out of the sun as possible and take UV protection.”
Experts said more local records would likely be broken as temperatures peak on Saturday.
“Temperature record in Portugal is 47.4 and for Spain its 47.3 – we are looking at highs of around 47 so those records are under threat,” said Ms Mitchell.
The all-time European record of 48C was set in Athens, Greece, in July 1977, and meteorologists think there is a chance this could be beaten this weekend.
After much of the northern hemisphere was struck by a heatwave that brought with it fire and a spike in heat-related deaths, scientists have raised alarm about the link with climate change.
Though heatwaves have always occurred in Europe, climate experts say they will become more intense and more frequent in the future as average global temperatures rise.
Preliminary results by the World Weather Attribution network suggested the heatwave that struck northern Europe in July, causing “unprecedented” temperatures above the Arctic Circle, was made more than twice as likely by climate change.
In the UK, MPs issued a warning to the government after analysis suggested deaths resulting from extreme summer heat are likely to treble by the middle of the century.