Fires devour eastern Mediterranean fueled by extreme heat | Climate change | Climate and environment

It is not the first time, far from it, that the Acropolis of Athens smells good of the smoke of the fires which prowl in the Greek capital. But what’s really unusual is the heatwave that’s scorching the eastern Mediterranean these days, with extreme temperatures spurring fires everywhere. This Wednesday, the Copernicus emergency management service showed by satellite observation the existence of numerous active fires in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Albania, North Macedonia and the countries of North Africa.

As explained by the director of the National Observatory of Athens, Kostas Lagouvardos, on Tuesday 47.1 degrees were recorded in Lagadas, a city in the north of the country, and in Plakias, in the south of Crete, the thermometers marked a minimum of 36 degrees. “Last year’s average temperature at this time was between 10 and 12 degrees lower,” said the meteorologist, who assures us that it is “the worst heat wave in the country in modern times”.


Fires in the Mediterranean

EU mobilizes resources to extinguish fires in Italy and Greece

Image taken on August 4. All are observed

active outbreaks in the last 24 hours in the south-east

from Europe. The wake of the incencios of

Greece, especially that of the island of Euboea and Turkey.

Image taken on August 4.

Image taken on August 3.

Source: NASA, MODIS and own elaboration.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES AND JOSE A. IGUACEL / EL PAÍS

Fires in the Mediterranean

EU mobilizes resources to extinguish fires in Italy and Greece

Image taken on August 4. All are observed

active outbreaks in the last 24 hours in the south-east

from Europe. The wake of the incencios of

Greece, especially that of the island of Euboea and Turkey.

Spotlights active yesterday

Image taken on August 4.

Image taken on August 3.

Source: NASA, MODIS and own elaboration.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES AND JOSE A. IGUACEL / EL PAÍS

fire in the

Evia Island

Fires in southern Turkey

Image taken on August 4. All active foci are observed in the last 24 hours in the south-east

from Europe. You can see the wake of the fires of Greece, especially that of the island of Euboea and Turkey.

Spotlights active yesterday

Image taken on August 4.

Image taken on August 3.

Source: NASA, MODIS and own elaboration.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES AND JOSE A. IGUACEL / EL PAÍS

fire in the

Evia Island

Fires in southern Turkey

Image taken on August 4. All active outbreaks are observed in the last 24 hours in southeastern Europe. You can see the wake of the fires of Greece, especially that of the island of Euboea and Turkey.

Spotlights active yesterday

Image taken on August 4.

Image taken on August 3.

Source: NASA, MODIS and own elaboration.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES AND JOSE A. IGUACEL / EL PAÍS

Without an attribution study, it cannot be categorically linked to climate change. But these exceptional temperature records once again remind scientists that this is exactly what to expect when discussing the climate crisis. “In the last decade alone, we’ve had five major heat waves. That of this year was also the longest. This, in itself, is already an indicator of climate change,” says Lagouvardos.

More information

The citizens of Athens know very well that year after year, sooner or later around this time, forest firefighters and seaplanes will have to go out. For now, according to the Greek authorities, the worst is borne by Varimpompi, Adames and Thrakomakedones, north of the city and only 20 kilometers from the center, where the fire, despite the nearly 500 firefighters working in the area, he forced the inhabitants to abandon everything and let disaster engulf their homes. But this is just one of 81 outbreaks to occur in the country in 24 hours. According to the authorities, in the regions of Mani and Vasilitsa, in the southern Peloponnese region, or on the islands of Evia and Kos, there have also been evacuations of citizens due to the fires. Wednesday afternoon, around 40 homes were still active across the country. Although the flames in the capital have been brought under control thanks to increased humidity and milder gusts of wind, according to the head of Hellenic Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias.

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A helicopter tries to extinguish the flames of the Varybobi fire in Greece. In video, fires in Greece in the middle of a heat wave. Video: EFE / REUTERS

Do not be surprised that fires occur at this time of year in the Mediterranean. Likewise, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service cannot say from a scientific point of view that there are now more fires due to global warming. However, data collected by satellites already confirms the increased risk of fires in various parts of Europe. This also corresponds to the predictions of the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, in its report on the economic impacts of climate change. PESETA IV, who warned that the increase in average temperature will mean an increase in the number of days with an extreme risk of fires. This is expected to happen across the continent, although there are two areas of the map that turn particularly red in the projections: one is part of the currently burning Mediterranean, the other is the Iberian Peninsula.

Athens (Greece), 05/08/2021.- A firefighter fights a forest fire burning a forest in Kryoneri area, near Athens, Greece, 05 August 2021. Other firefighters and air support have been added to the forces fighting the resurgence of the Varybobi fire, north of Athens.  A total of nine helicopters and four planes drop water on the fire, which is out of control.  Police blocked traffic on all roads leading to Varibobi and the fire fronts near the former royal estates of Tatoi.  The resumption of the fire, aided by scorching temperatures and winds, led to the evacuation of Ippokratios Politia and Drossopigi.  (Fire, Greece, Athens) EFE/EPA/KOSTAS TSIRONIS

To scientifically demonstrate the relationship between global warming and an extreme weather event, explains Juan Jesús González, a researcher specializing in climate change at Complutense University, an attribution study must be carried out, as was done with the wave of last July’s heat in Canada, which a World Weather Attribution (WWA) survey concluded would have been “almost impossible” had the planet not warmed up as it is now. However, these jobs are expensive and uncommon.

However, as this meteorologist points out, it is increasingly these types of heat waves that we must prepare for with global warming. “Climate change does not cause an extreme event, what it does is increase its associated characteristics, such as frequency, duration or intensity; It all fits into the expected context,” González says. “What happened to Greece and Turkey is a new normal that we are going to see with climate change.”

Flattened houses in Turkey

The fires are also raging in a particular way with Turkey, where the inhabitants of the south-west of the country have noticed for a week how the fires consume hectares in an uncontrolled way. The most affected areas are between the tourist resorts of Bodrum and Antalya, where thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes due to the proximity of the flames. In fact, many houses have been razed in the small villages around Milas, an area where the fire threatens the Kemerkoy power plant.


Average danger during the season

fires

Number of days per year at very high risk

Source: Climate data bank – Copernicus.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES / THE COUNTRY

Average danger during the season

fires

Number of days per year at very high risk

Source: Climate Data Store – Copernicus.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES / THE COUNTRY

Medium danger during fire season

Number of days per year at very high risk

Source: Climate Data Store – Copernicus.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES / THE COUNTRY

Number of days per year at very high risk

Medium danger during fire season

Source: Climate Data Store – Copernicus.

LUIS SEVILLANO PIRES / THE COUNTRY


According to Ismail Bekar, a Turkey-based scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, “there is no empirical evidence to say that the fires are caused by climate change, but over the past five years they have increased. and this year has been the worst in the history of Turkey.This expert considers that what is happening in this country is linked to the same heat wave that is suffocating Greece and other Mediterranean countries, and expresses his surprise at the to the high temperatures that have also been recorded these days on the Turkish Aegean coast: “We are now at highs of 46 degrees in the affected regions, it is an incredible temperature.

The numbers in Turkey are frightening: the European Forest Fire Information Service says more than 136,000 hectares have burned in Turkey this year, around three times the normal average. A fatality to which have been added these days eight deaths and 16,603 people evacuated from 28 municipalities. The Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) reported on Wednesday that atmospheric data from Turkey and southern Italy “show that emissions and intensity of wildfires are increasing rapidly, while countries like Morocco, Albania, Greece, North Macedonia and Lebanon are also affected.”

The fire in 2021 in Spain

From January 1 to July 25, 2021, there were 1,959 fires in Spain, which burned 37,535.9 hectares of forest area, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Although this is considerably more than last year at this time (21,132 hectares), it must be taken into account that the figures for 2020 were particularly good due to the effect of the confinements and more severe movement restrictions due to the pandemic. In any case, these numbers for 2021 are lower than the average of the last 10 years of fires and area burned. In terms of large fires, larger than 500 hectares, so far this year there have been 11, more than any year in the past decade except 2012, during which at that time already 21 major disasters had been recorded and 149,681.15 hectares of forest area had burned.

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