Europeans from the English Channel to the Czech Republic are scrambling to protect themselves from an early summer heatwave now scorching the continent, but won’t be as lethal as the horrific 2003 heatwave that killed more than 70,000 persons.

Temperatures across Europe began soaring Monday and are expected to continue doing so until Friday when it begins to subside. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), however, predicts the sweltering heat might become "deadly" in some places.

The European Union's Emergency Response Coordination Center said the unseasonal heatwave is expected to peak Thursday afternoon. Temperatures are predicted at more than 36°C (96°F) and might rise above 40°C (104°F) throughout much of Europe.

Temperatures should spiral to record highs in many countries this week, and are expected to reach a mind-numbing peak of 45°C in parts of France. Météo-France, the French national meteorological service, now predicts highs of 45°C (113°F) in the southern towns of Nîmes and Carpentras on Friday.

“The latest forecasts leave little room for doubt: we are heading for a new national record,” said Guillaume Woznica, a French forecaster.

Météo-France said the highest verifiable June temperature previously recorded in France was 41.5°C on June 21, 2003 during a deadly heatwave in that year. The country’s highest ever temperature, however, was 44.1°C recorded at two separate areas in southern France on Aug. 12, 2003.

The ghastly 2003 heatwave that lasted eight weeks caused the deaths of more than 70,000 people across Europe. Of this dreadful total, some 15,000 were French.

The hottest summers in Europe since the year 1500 AD have all occurred in this century, specifically in 2018, 2010, 2003, 2016 and 2002.

“Weather data show that heatwaves and other weather extremes are on the rise in recent decades,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

European meteorologists expect previous June highs to be approached and exceeded in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. All-time high heat records will likely be set in some countries.

Most weather models predict temperatures will jump by Thursday to the low to mid-40°Cs in south and central France and northeast Spain. Temperatures will hit the upper 30°Cs in much of the rest of Europe. High temperatures will likely increase throughout the week and affect an area extending from Spain along the Atlantic to the Czech Republic in the east.

Meteorologists said this severe heatwave is being caused by a combination of a storm stalling over the Atlantic and high pressure over central Europe. Combined, these phenomena suck-in very hot air northwards from the Sahara Desert.

"Even though it will be short-lived, this heatwave could be remarkable for its momentum and intensity," said Météo France.

Paris burns A woman cools down in the fountains of Trocadero across from the Eiffel Tower during a heat wave on June 25, 2019 in Paris, France. France is currently experiencing a heat wave and is put on alert heat wave according to forecasters, the temperatures should rise to almost 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images