THEY called it the killer summer. Back in 2003 an estimated 15,000 people died as a wave of heat, a canicule, swept across France.

For eight days in August temperatures held above 40 degrees. The very old and the very weak collapsed. It was the week when, for so many Europeans, global heating became real.

Yesterday the French Government again announced a "plan national canicule", with alerts that temperatures would top the psychologically and physiologically crucial 40 degrees. But in June, not August.

Amber alerts were put in place for much of France - 53 departments - on Tuesday with the mercury expected to hit 34C Paris, 37C in Lyon and 39C in Grenoble and then rise  further towards the end of the month.

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Météo France, the national weather service, formally warned of a "heatwave episode of exceptional intensity," according to Le Monde. The heat, the paper said, was not just intense, it was precocious. Temperatures this high, this early in the season, are unprecedented since details records began in 1947.

Most of southern central and eastern Europe is now braced for more record-breaking heat.

READ MORE: Scotland's homes will fail to protect people against deadly heatwaves

But that does not mean authorities are ready for the new normal (nine of the hottest ten years on record were chalked up since 2000, the other was in 1998) as man-made climate change becomes an indisputable, everyday reality rather than a theoretical forecast.

Italian meteorologists have warned of an "African heat" across the peninsula.  RAI, the public broadcaster, warned of "boiling" air as plus-40C temperatures were blown in from the Sahara.

In Spain, Aemet, the state weather service, forecast extreme heat - the highest of 42 degrees in the Ebro Valley - across the country. The heatwave would be "exceptionally adverse", it said.

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Germans enjoy fountains in the heat

In Germany, temperatures above 40C are possible in some places on Wednesday, topping the country's previous June record of 38.2C, set in Frankfurt in 1947.

Parts of north-eastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires.

Southern England is on the edge of this weather pattern - with the Glastonbury music festival expected to suffer a "35C scorcher".

Scotland, however, is under the influence of a different system, suffering heavy rain rather than heat.  Authorities in several areas were yesterday mopping up after flooding.

In Stirling three schools were shut on Tuesday and one road remained closed by lunchtime.

The local authority's convenor for Environment and Housing,  Jim Thomson, praised workers for their response: “It’s hard to remember such severe flash flooding like this in Stirling with so little warning but as conditions deteriorated last night, Council staff responded quickly with partners in the Police and Fire and Rescue Service to react to the damage and disruption caused by the weather.

“Our praise goes to the people who were first on the scene and all the teams who worked long into the night to get as many roads and footpaths open as possible in the wake of such a swift turn in the weather.”

READ MORE: Issue of the day: How is Scotland doing on its climate change promises?

Weather experts have described the UK has been influenced by what they call a "Spanish Plume" - when hot, humid air from Iberia pushes north causing thunderstorms and intermittent sunshine.

Freak weather - whether flooding or extreme heat - is widely viewed as a symptom of global heating but experts rarely like to attribute local events to planet-wide change.

The Herald:  Berlin's Tempel der Kunst

There have been questions about how well Scotland can withstand heat waves. Earlier this year the UK's Climate Change Committee stressed that many Scottish homes were ill-equipped to deal with high temperatures of the kind experienced in the summer of 2018.

A Scottish record temperature of 33.2C was set in Motherwell this time last year, breaking a previous high set in the same August 2003 that set France on fire.

France was yesterday taking no chances.  In Paris, charity organisations patrolled the streets to provide homeless people with water, while local authorities organised air-conditioned public places where people could seek shelter from the heat.

French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, deciding it was too hot to study, ordered national exams taken by students heading to high school to be postponed from Thursday and Friday to next week.

And International football federation Fifa could face implementing heat precautions at the Women's World Cup, which France is hosting. The precautions include holding cooling breaks during matches and postponing games if the heat is too intense.

Luckily, matches are scheduled for evening kick-offs.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: "As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. So we must be vigilant with them and have prevention measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible,"

His health minister, Agnes Buzyn, said that "everything is ready" in retirement homes, hospitals and transportation systems. But added: "Yet when people are fragile, even when everything is organised, there's always a higher mortality rate."