Soaring Temperatures and Raging Fires: Europe Faces Its Second Heat Wave in a Week


Blisteringly high temperatures are expected to continue across parts of southern Europe this week, as the continent braces for its second extreme heat wave, putting people’s health at risk and setting the stage for wildfires.

Last week’s “Cerberus” heat wave is making way for another, which Italian weather forecasters have named “Charon” – the ferryman in Greek mythology who carries souls to the underworld.

Italy, Spain and Greece have already faced unrelenting heat for days, but the European Space Agency has warned that the heat wave is only just beginning.

As a high pressure anticyclone pushes up from North Africa, temperatures in Europe are expected to come close to, or even breach, the continent’s record of 48.8 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) set in 2021, according to the ESA.

In Italy, which has been particularly hard hit, temperatures in many cities are expected to soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). On Sunday, Italian authorities issued an “extreme” health risk warning for 16 cities including Rome and Florence.

The peak of the heat will be between Monday and Wednesday, according to Italian weather news service, with temperatures expected to climb above 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country. Temperatures will remain high at night meaning there will be little respite from the heat.

Italian authorities have advised people to drink plenty of water, eat lighter meals and avoid direct sunlight between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In Greece, where temperatures have risen above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), authorities were forced to close the Acropolis in Athens, from noon to 5pm local time on Friday and again over the weekend.

In Spain, temperatures in the cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada have reached 40 degrees Celsius. Even the normally cooler region of Navarra in the north of the country is experiencing up to 40 degrees Celsius.

The heat has also helped prime the land for fires.

Wildfires on the island of La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands, which started on Saturday morning, have burned through 4,650 hectares (11,490 acres), destroying 20 houses and forcing the emergency evacuation of thousands of people, according to a Reuters report.

Fires have also broken out on Tenerife, another of the Canary Islands, forcing around 50 people to evacuate and burning through around 60 hectares (123 acres).

In Greece, up to 150 firefighters are working on the scene with 40 fire engines, seven aircraft and four helicopters, trying to control a fire Kouvaras, about 27 km (17 miles) southeast of Athens. Wildfires are also raging in the Peloponnese and central Greece.

And on Monday, a fire closed the airport in the city of Catania on the Italian island of Sicily, with flights suspended until 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to a Twitter post from the airport authorities.

Firefighters have controlled the fire and it’s not yet clear if the region’s high temperatures played any role. Catania was one of several cities under a hot weather red alert on Sunday, according to a Reuters report.

‘Uncharted territory’

As the human-caused climate crisis accelerates, scientists are clear that extreme weather events such as heat waves will only become more frequent and more intense. Global temperatures have already risen 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels due to humans burning planet-heating fossil fuels.

Extreme heat is being felt around the world. Temperatures hit 52.2 degrees Celsius (126 Fahrenheit) on Sunday in northwest China. While in the US, California’s Death Valley reached nearly 52 degrees Celsius (125.6) on Sunday.

Last month was the planet’s hottest June on record by a substantial margin, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, accompanied by record high ocean temperatures and record low levels of Antarctic ice.

That unprecedented heat has continued into this month. The first week of July was the hottest week on record, according to preliminary data from the World Meteorological Organization

“We are in uncharted territory and we can expect more records to fall as El Niño develops further and these impacts will extend into 2024,” Christopher Hewitt, director of climate services at WMO said in a statement. “This is worrying news for the planet,” he added.

Source : CNN