Whilst the UK summer has seen temperatures drop to around 20C after the mid-July heatwave, southeast Europe is gripped by extremely high temperatures and threatened by wildfires.
Holidaymakers in Turkey have seen smoke and flames from their hotels, edging nearer. There have been fires in forests, rural and urban areas of Greece, including Rhodes. Some of the areas are mountainous or steep and remote, filled with dry woodland fuel after a lengthy drought. Others are encroaching near tourist areas or popular resorts. The Greek authorities are saying that local people should not be travelling over the holidays.
This of course leads to danger and destruction, distress but also air pollution and disruption to services. The continuing heat, dry weather and moderate winds are adding to the already dire situation.
Whilst the southerly track of the Jetstream is keeping the weather for the UK and western Europe unsettled and in the fresher air, SE Europe stays with the heat, at least until the end of this week. Days have been extremely hot but also with little respite by night. There are signs of a thundery breakdown for the weekend.
Temperatures are moving from the high 30sC into the low to mid 40sC. There are concerns for power and water outages, overwhelming heat exhaustion or heatstroke cases for the health services. The peak of the heat is expected to be at the beginning of this week as night-time temperatures stay at 28C and up to 44C by day, possibly higher for Greece.
These summer heatwave problems are becoming more of an issue. In July 2021 the mayor of Athens announced a Chief Heat Officer, a first for Europe.
“I have a vision for a cooler, greener Athens,” said Mayor Bakoyannis. “Climate change for our city means more frequent and dangerous extreme high temperatures for residents and for tourists who are critical for our economy. Unfortunately, Athens is not unique – heat is an emergency for cities across Europe and the world. “
What is needed is the protection of vulnerable people and good health information communication. Cooling solutions for the longer term. Raising awareness of the grave danger that extreme heat can bring. The elderly are particularly at risk as are those with underlying health issues. The layer of extra stress on the human body from extreme temperatures hot or cold can be fatal. This is an issue across Europe and indeed around the world.
As our climate warms cities need to adapt to the higher temperatures and increased risk of heatwaves. Athens is looking at more green areas and shading. The promotion of “cool routes” to offset some of the urban heat island effect. Heat warning messaging going straight to people’s phones and making this information easily accessible for visitors and tourists.
These aren’t the policies that will be needed to address the warming, which the IPCC are issuing this month in AR6. This is about living and coping in a warmer environment now.