Southern Europe braces for 10 more days of extreme heat, as extreme heatwaves become the 'new normal'

Southern Europe grapples with persistent 113F heat with wildfires in Greece, Xinjiang in China hits record 122F (50C), and Death Valley in California hits a blistering 128F.
Shubhangi Dua
A Greek policeman evacuates a child from wild fire at the village of Agios Charamlabos, near the capital Athens
A Greek policeman evacuates a child from wild fire at the village of Agios Charamlabos, near the capital Athens

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images 

While Northern Europe faces rainy days, southern Europe is suffering in scorching heat which is forecast to last for at least another week.

Concerns have intensified since the EU's Copernicus Sentinel mission land surface temperature was recorded at 140F (60C) in Spain last week. 

Earlier today, the UN’s weather forecaster announced that the heatwave across the northern hemisphere will intensify this week, with a surge in overnight temperatures and an increased risk of heart attacks and loss of life.

The World Meteorological Organization said in a statement: “Temperatures in North America, Asia, and across North Africa and the Mediterranean will be above 104F (40C) for a prolonged number of days this week as the heatwave intensifies.” 

They added, “Whilst most of the attention focuses on daytime maximum temperatures, it is the overnight temperatures which have the biggest health risks, especially for vulnerable populations”

The meteorological unit emphasized that the trend shows no signs of abating. Thus, the consequential impact will be serious on human health and livelihoods

Temperatures around the world continue to reach record levels with scientists and meteorologists issuing more and more heat warnings.

This morning, several European countries took urgent action to protect the vulnerable against extreme heat and wildfires, including on the Italian island of Sardinia, the Spanish island of La Palma, mainland Greece and in the Swiss Alps, with thousands evacuated.

Blazing Athens

Greece has been battling wildfires since yesterday, with one raging uncontrolled through forests near Dervenohoria, 19 miles north of the capital Athens.

The authorities have arrested a man suspected of initiating a fire in Kouvaras south-east of Athens, which has spread to coastal areas near the resort town of Lagonisi, forcing people to flee their homes.

Helena Smith, The Guardian's correspondent reports that swaths of virgin pine forests have been destroyed in Greece as devastating wildfires continue to tear through terrain turned tinder-dry by the extreme heat.

BBC reported that Greece's temperatures rose to 104F (40C) or more in recent days. “The Acropolis in Athens - the country's most popular tourist attraction - was closed during the hottest hours of Friday and Saturday to protect visitors,” journalists – Robert Plummer & Kathryn Armstrong noted. 

Nearly 1,200 children were evacuated from the coastal town of Loutraki, located west of Athens, due to the encroaching fire near their camp.

Additionally, the BBC said that dozens of people had had to leave their homes in the wider area, assisted by emergency service crews.

Greece's government announced that people whose homes had been affected by the fire were eligible for accommodation in local hotels and would be compensated later. 

Watch the video below to see raging fires destroying homes in Athens.

Switzerland wildfires

Further north on the continent, nearly 200 people were forced to flee their homes in an Alpine village in Switzerland due to a large forest fire. 

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the fire broke out on Monday in a forest above the village of Bitch in the upper Wallis region in southern Switzerland and is now situated on the north side of the Rhone river valley.

Around 150 firefighters alongside civilians and military helicopters were seen combating the accelerating blaze.

The Guardian reports Mario Schaller, the local fire chief said that about 100 hectares of forest had been affected but it had now been gradually stabilized. 

Watch the police evacuate civilians in the Swiss Alps as wildfires spread in the region.

US-China breaking records

Other parts of the globe are also experiencing extreme temperatures, including parts of the US and China, where temperatures shot over 122F (50C) last Sunday, according to the BBC.

According to the UK Met Office, China set a new record for its highest-ever temperature on Sunday, reaching 52.2C (126F) in the western Xinjiang region.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Death Valley in California experienced a scorching temperature of 128F (53.9C), approaching the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth at 134F (56.7C).

Millions of Californians were advised to stay at home. Watch the video below to learn more.

The US city of Phoenix in the state of Arizona is expected to encounter record-breaking temperatures yet again, with today being the 19th day facing 110F (43.3C), The Guardian reports.

Dr Frederieke Otto, Scientist at Imperial College London told the BBC that humans are 100 percent behind the upward trend in global temperatures. 

She explained that climate change began during the industrial revolution when humans started burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas which emits carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Otto emphasized that the new normal is unknown as the world is not in a stable climate. “What we are seeing at the moment is exactly what we expect in a world where we are still burning fossil fuels", she said.

Petteri Taalas, MO Secretary-General at World Meteorological Organisation also urged for more action to help society adapt to what is “unfortunately, becoming the new normal."

He added, "the extreme weather - an increasingly frequent occurrence in our warming climate - is having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy, and water supplies," 

Taalas advised cutting greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible.

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