Spain has sweltered in potentially its hottest day ever after a provisional heat record of 47.2C (116.96F) was set in the Andalusia region.
The temperature is waiting to be confirmed as countries in southern Europe continue to experience dangerous levels of heat.
Italy put 16 cities on red alert for health risks and Portugal warned 75% of its regions that they faced a “significantly increased risk” of wildfires.
Data from Spain’s State Meteorological Agency said the potentially unprecedented temperature in the country was recorded in the city of Montoro in Cordoba on Friday afternoon.
If confirmed, it would exceed the country’s previous record of 46.9C (116.42F) – set nearby in July 2017.
It comes only days after Sicily in Italy reported a temperature of 48.8C (119.84F) on Wednesday, which is also awaiting verification and would be the highest ever recorded in Europe.
Europe’s current heat record was set in 1977 when Athens hit 48C (118.4F).
In the southern Spanish province of Granada, where temperatures rose to 45.4C (113.7F) on Friday, few people ventured outside.
Those who did sought shade and stopped to take photos of public thermometers displaying the rocketing temperatures.
Ice cream parlours did a brisk trade and some restaurants installed sprinklers to spray mists of water over their guests.
Miriam García, a student, wished she hadn’t braved the heat and said: “It is very hot, we have to drink water and put on sun cream all the time, stopping to have a drink at a bar every so often.
“It would be better to be at home than in the street, it’s so hot!”
Dominic Roye, a climate scientist at the University of Santiago de Compostela, said the hot air from the Sahara Desert that has brought days of heat and fuelled hundreds of wildfires across Mediterranean nations shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
He said: “The heatwave we are experiencing now is very extreme and a lot of people are saying that it’s normal, as we are in summer. But it’s not, not this hot.”
The World Meteorological Organisation said temperatures being recorded in the Mediterranean region go well beyond the typical hot, dry August weather and instead “are extreme, and what we might expect from climate change”.
With night-time temperatures forecast to exceed 25C (77F) in much of Spain, Mr Roye worried about residents who cannot afford air conditioning and other vulnerable people, like the homeless or outdoor workers.
Spain’s State Meteorological Agency noted that 24 heatwaves have been recorded over the last decade, twice the number in each of the previous three decades.
Elsewhere on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal’s government placed 14 of the country’s 18 districts on a state of alert through Monday night due to the “significantly increased risk” of wildfires, as temperatures were forecast to surpass 40C (104F).
That would still fall short of Portugal’s highest-ever recorded temperature of 47.3C (117.1F) in the inland Alentejo region in 2003.
Italians sought respite at the sea and in the mountains from an anti-cyclone named Lucifer that was bringing hot air from Africa during Italy’s peak summer holiday weekend. Authorities raised concerns about older adults and other people at risk as they expanded heat warnings to 16 cities.
Temperatures in Italy rose as high as 37C (98.6F) in Rome, Florence and Bologna, all places that the health ministry put on red alert.
The heatwave in Europe has aggravated wildfires that have consumed forests in southern Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Across the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa has been sizzling for days.
Algeria’s National Office of Meteorology issued a special bulletin on Saturday saying temperatures in numerous regions across the north were above 44C (115F) with spikes up to 47C (116.6F).
Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events, such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms.