Europe sizzles and burns in record heat

GENEVA, Switzerland, August 9, 2022 (ENS) – Authorities are scrambling water bomber planes and hundreds of exhausted firefighters are once again gearing up to battle the wildfires sweeping across Europe this summer. The fire season hit Europe earlier than usual this year after a hot and dry spring. Now halfway through the fire season, the European Union Joint Research Center says the fires have already scorched the second-largest area on record.

Thousands of people were evacuated as flames blazed across various countries, with popular holiday destinations left in ruins.

Extreme heat, drought and wildfires have devastated many parts of the world in one of the hottest three July months on record, the United Nations weather agency said today. “Heat waves will occur more frequently due to climate change,” warned World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The World Meteorological Organization, WMO, reports that temperatures were nearly 0.4℃ above the 1991-2020 average across much of Europe, southwestern and western Europe being the regions most above average, due to an intense heat wave around mid-July.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, September 16, 2021 (Photo by Jean Marc Ferré courtesy of the United Nations)

Besieged by the heat, Secretary General Taalas warned reporters on July 29: “This kind of heat wave is the new normal. We will see stronger extremes. We have pumped so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the negative trend will continue for decades. We have not been able to reduce our emissions globally,” Taalas said. “I hope this will be a wake-up call for governments and have an impact on electoral behavior in democratic countries,” he said.

This year, Portugal, France and Ireland broke records, while England reached 40℃ for the first time.

Today the UK Met Office issued an Amber Extreme Heat Warning with temperatures expected to rise throughout the week.

The warning, which covers much of the southern half of England as well as parts of east Wales, will be in effect from Thursday to late Sunday with possible impacts on health, transport and infrastructure.

Met Office deputy chief meteorologist Dan Rudman said: “With continued high pressure over the UK temperatures will rise daily throughout this week and an extreme heat warning has been issued. .”

In the south and south-west of France, two huge forest fires continue to rage in the Aquitaine region.

“This is despite the La Niña event which is supposed to have a chilling influence,” explained WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis. “We’ve seen this in some places, but not globally,” she said of intermittent La Niña cooling conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific that occur every few years.

“It was” one of the hottest three [Julys] on record, slightly cooler than July 2019, warmer than 2016, but the difference is too close to call,” Nullis said.

Record temperatures across Europe

All-time national records for daily maximum temperatures have been broken in Wales and Scotland.

Spain experienced its hottest month on record in July, with an average national temperature of 25.6°C. A heat wave beginning on July 8 and persisting until the 26th was the most intense and longest ever recorded in Spain.

In France, a fire in La Teste-de-Buch near the Atlantic coast forced 10,000 people to evacuate.

“We are mobilized” and “we will continue to hold out,” President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday after meeting with officials from the Crisis Management Operational Center.

The scorching sun rises over the olive trees in Licata, Sicily, on October 21, 2019 (Photo by cattan2011)

The President thanked Greece, Spain and Italy. All three countries have provided firefighting aircraft; he arrived Friday morning.

Italy is facing historic drought conditions that threaten olive oil and other food exports.

The heat spread further north and east, bringing very high temperatures to other countries, including Germany and parts of Scandinavia, with local July and all-weather records broken in several places in Sweden.

Using data from the European Commission’s Copernicus climate change service, the United Nations meteorological agency has confirmed that Europe experienced its sixth warmest July on record.

Cooler temperatures prevail further south

Meanwhile, from the Horn of Africa to southern India, and from central Asia to most of Australia, temperatures remained below average.

Temperatures were generally below average in Georgia and much of Turkey

July also saw the lowest Antarctic sea ice on record – seven percent below average.

Arctic sea ice was four percent below average, ranking the 12th lowest for July according to satellite records.

The WMO said sea ice concentration in the Arctic was the lowest for July recorded by satellite, which began in 1979, and that sea ice there was the 12th lowest on record, in s’ based on this information from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The glaciers had a “rough, brutal summer,” Nullis explained.

“We started with a weak snowpack on the glaciers of the Alps, reported by the meteorological services, and now successive heat waves. This is bad news for glaciers in Europe,” she said. “Greenland’s glacier picture is more mixed, however, as there has been no relentless heat.”

The European Union harmonizes fire adaptation strategies

Firefighters brought a huge forest fire under control in El Vellon, Madrid, Spain on July 27, 2022 (Photo courtesy Twitter @112cmadrid)

A report resulting from an eight-year collaboration between the European Commission and fire specialists from 43 countries was published on 5 August. The report focuses on forest fire risk assessment and provides harmonized data across the pan-European region.

As fires rage across the EU and around the world, there is broad consensus that firefighting alone is not the answer when it comes to mitigating the damage by forest fires. To cope with future forest fire danger situations under climate change, it is necessary to focus on preventing forest fires with special attention to good landscape planning, avoiding excessive and continuity of combustible materials in the field, and to protect life and property in fire-prone areas.

To this end, forest fire risk assessment is essential.

The first one Pan-European Forest Fire Risk Assessment harmonizes previous approaches used by different countries. Jesus San-Miguel, head of the The JRC Wildfires Team, said: “While some countries have developed methods to assess wildfire risk, these vary widely in terms of the variables and methodologies used. This is often an obstacle to having an overview of the risk situation at pan-European level and developing regional strategies.

The featured image: Firefighters fight a forest fire near Landiras, southwestern France, on July 17, 2022 (Photo courtesy of Gironde firefighters)

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Mary I. Bruner