The sun is shining this weekend in Southern Europe. Record temperatures and wildfires dominate the news. We call three weather experts from the area, who warn that this summer is the start of an alarming trend. “If this continues, these types of extreme heat waves will be normal within half a century.”
Dimitris Papadiou, weather forecaster for Attica TV from Greece
Weatherman Papadiano prepared himself well for the conversation: he had drawn up a weather forecast especially for the occasion, which he would repeat. “A heat dome has appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, causing very high temperatures in France, Spain, Italy and Greece,” he said.
But it’s not this heat dome that’s engulfing Greece right now, it’s strong winds from the northeast that are blowing small wildfires into big fires. This makes the situation in Greece different from other southern European countries. This phenomenon of summer winds was already known to the ancient Greeks, who called it “ItsiosGifts (annual). More than 150 square kilometers of nature have been burned so far this year. The conditions are good: it has been dry for a long time and the temperature often rises above forty degrees.
The bitter summer reminds us of the summer of 2021, Papadiou says. “The highest temperature ever recorded in Greece is 48 degrees in Elefsina in 1977. In the coming days it will reach 47 degrees in some places. Perhaps the record will be broken. In Athens, where I live and work, the temperature is expected to reach 45 degrees on Sunday.”
Most Greeks escape to islands for their holidays, such as Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea or the Cyclades. If they stay at home, they will be in an air-conditioned room during the day. Although the weather man himself would prefer to escape the hot city to cool off on an island, a vacation isn’t in the cards right now. We are dealing with a heatwave and wildfires. Then you have to act. I’m not going to lie: It’s been a tough summer.”
Sitting on the terrace in a relaxed state after work is also not an option: his neighbors, friends and family constantly ask what the weather will do. “I don’t always feel like having this conversation, but I think my work is important, so I want to answer their questions.” Now the answer is simple, he says: “It’s hot and it’s going to stay hot for now.”
Although Greeks are used to a little heat in the summer — in Athens the average temperature is 35 degrees — Papadiou notes that anxiety is growing among the population. People are especially afraid of forest fires, because they are getting more and more every year. “The Greeks are terrified of thunderstorms right now. Any kind of lightning can start a fire. People often ask me what will happen in the long run, they want to be reassured, as I noticed.”
But the weather scientist can’t shake their fears away. What’s more: There is little positivity to report. The climate crisis is everywhere, including here. The weather in Greece shows extreme all year round. Because of the higher temperatures, the percentage of moisture in the clouds is higher, so when it rains, it rains more. Thunderstorms are more heinous than ever. We have a big problem with the climate.”
Meteorologist José Luis Camacho Ruiz from Spain
We call meteorologist Camacho Ruiz just before the nap begins. He’s sitting in the office, looking out over the Mediterranean. He laughs that his way of dealing with heat is old-fashioned. “I’m almost 65, I still do it the old Spanish way. I go home to take a nap, have a snack and a drink and a melon there, do some reading at home, and about 6pm I start my activities again.” The younger generation does it differently. “Now you can go to the movies or to the mall where it’s cold, and you can continue to work just fine if you have air conditioning in the office.”
This summer, Barcelona’s tourism sector is complaining that it is not as crowded as expected. The meteorologist says more tourists have traveled to the countryside this year. According to him, the best plan: Cities are so hot right now, you’d better sit under a tree. And this is immediately the advantage of Spain: it is a country of diverse weather. “It’s a wonderful place now in the north of the country, and the nights are cool, but it shouldn’t be in Andalusia, it’s too hot there. Visiting the monument at noon is also not a good idea.”
The Spanish government launched campaigns on radio and television with warnings. Free swimming pools have also been opened, and there are climate shelters. Many churches have opened their doors to let the people there cool down.” Older people in particular are urged not to go out.
But next Sunday, people will still have to take to the streets. Because its timing is so good: there are elections. Camacho Ruiz is expected to calm down a bit by then. “Now we have peak heat, but then there is cooling, cold entrance. However, the government is buying water bottles and ventilators in bulk to keep polling stations as cool as possible.”
Changes in climate and extreme weather are worrying for Spain – and more broadly for southern Europe – analyzes weather experts. The current summer has started early in Spain: high temperatures have already been measured in mid-June. We now have temperatures we normally wouldn’t have until the end of August. The air masses from the Sahara are much warmer than they were in the past, and the temperature of the Mediterranean Sea is higher.”
The weather causes unrest in the country. Spaniards wonder if this is the new normal now, but so far they are coping easily, says Camacho Ruiz. “It is now fruit season in Spain, and many people are working in the fields. They start early and stop at noon. If necessary, they go further in the evening.” It concludes coolly. “Indeed, it is always hot in Spain in the summer.” He describes the temperature records smashed in Granada, Catalonia and Mallorca as having been beaten.
Devastating fires swept the country last summer. 2022 fell into the books as a record year: 267,939.64 hectares of nature were smoked, three times more than in the previous year. So far this year is going well. “The spring was rainy,” explains the Spanish meteorologist. “However, parts of the forest have dried up to a great extent, and therefore the risk of forest fires is high in many places in Spain. That is why there is currently enhanced supervision in order to be able to intervene quickly in the event of a fire.”
Climate scientist and meteorologist Luca Mercalli from Italy
Luca Mercalli is known to Italian television audiences for his appearances on the popular talk show Chi Tempo Chi FWhere he talks about the climate and weather. It’s not always the most fun work, he says, because opinions are also divided on climate change in Italy. “Some Italians are really worried about the effects of heat and the overwhelming evidence of climate change. But others are indifferent. Or worse, they think that this is a climate sensationalism created specifically by environmental lobbies to support an ecological transition.”
He tirelessly continues his mission: to raise awareness of climate change among the Italian public. Always cheerful, always in a shirt with a tie. His phone is red hot this summer. Not surprisingly, he says. “The Earth is warming, and this can be clearly felt in Italy.” The current weather is very unusual. “Indeed, it is exceptional in Sardinia and in the south, both for its intensity and for its very long periods. The highest temperature this month was measured near Cagliari: 47.7 degrees.”
This summer, Italians prepared for the hottest heatwave on record. The current peak in northern Italy will fall by the end of this week, and temperatures in the south will drop slightly. With an emphasis on light: in the regions of Sicily and Puglia, temperatures are likely to remain above 40 degrees. Short-term cooling: Next week there will be another hot day. Mercalli expects normal summer weather to return by the end of July.
The Italian government has issued a code red for sixteen cities in the country, including the tourist attractions of Rome, Florence and Bologna. The advice for Italians is to avoid direct sunlight between 11am and 6pm.
The climate scientist says the situation in Italy is worrying. A study published this week shows that extreme heat is seriously increasing the death rate in the country. In the summer of 2022, the country has seen 18,000 heat-related deaths. more than any other European country; A total of 60,000 people have died in the European Union. Heatwaves also have a significant impact on water resources and agriculture, as production is lower due to severe weather, Mercalli says.
“The climate is changing drastically and is getting warmer in all countries around the Mediterranean. The summer temperature in Italy has increased by an average of 2.2 degrees over the past century, and much of that warming has occurred over the past 30 to 40 years. If this continues, these types of extreme heat waves will be normal within half a century.”
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