Sat, 18 Sep 2021

Greek heatwave: Seven deadly European summers

News24
03 Aug 2021, 04:42 GMT+10

  • Europe has had to deal with seven years of high summer temperatures since 2003.
  • In 2019, around 2 500 people died in extreme heat waves.
  • Spain hit 47C in 2017.

With Greece roasted by the worst heatwave in more than three decades and forest fires raging in neighbouring Turkey, we look at how Europe is being struck more often by extreme heat.

Since 2003 the continent has had to deal with seven years of fierce summer temperatures, with scientists saying climate change is likely to make heatwaves more frequent and intense.

2021: Greece and Turkey burn

Greece is suffering its "worst heatwave since 1987", according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, with temperatures set to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) on Monday and Tuesday.

Turkey, Italy and Spain have also been pummelled by intense heat, with forest fires now burning across the Mediterranean region.

2019: Records tumble

About 2 500 people were killed by two waves of extreme heat in northern Europe in June and July 2019, scientists at the CRED disaster research centre of Belgium's University of Louvain estimate.

The temperature hit 46 degrees Celsius on 28 June in the village of Verargues in southern France, smashing the previous national record set in 2003 by nearly two degrees.

All-time highs were also set during the second July wave in Britain (38.7 degrees), Germany (42.6), Belgium (41.8) and the Netherlands (40.4).

2018: Drought and fires

The previous summer had been marked by intense drought across Europe, with soaring temperatures in the second half of July and early August reducing the mighty Danube River to an historic low.

Forest fires also raged across swathes of Spain and Portugal.

2017: 47.3 degrees in Spain

Several heatwaves hit the south of the continent hard from June till mid-August, with Spain marking its highest ever recorded temperature of 47.3 degrees Celsius in the small town of Montoro near Cordoba.

Daytime temperatures remained above 40 degrees for a whole week.

The ensuing drought also sparked deadly forest fires, particularly in Portugal.

2015: June heatwave

The heat came early in 2015 with the mercury rising sharply in late June, reaching 37 at the beginning of July in England.

The four heatwaves that hit France that year killed around 1 700 people, according to its health service.

2007: Central Europe bakes

Central and southern Europe baked in a month of punishingly hot weather from the end of June 2007.

More than 500 people died in Hungary alone while Italy, Northern Macedonia and Serbia suffered from severe forest fires.

2003: 70 000 die

The most deadly heatwave of recent decades hit western Europe in early August 2003 caused as many as 70 000 excess deaths, according to the European Union.

France, Italy, Spain and Portugal were particularly hard hit, with the latter recording its highest ever temperature of 47.3 degrees.

Elderly, isolated and vulnerable people suffered particularly badly, and the deaths of some 40 000 in France and Italy led to a major overhaul of how the authorities dealt with severe heat.

Experts say greenhouse gas emissions increase both the length and severity of hot spells.

Scientists at the World Weather Attribution found that the 2019 heatwave across northern Europe was made "at least five times more likely" by human affected climate change.

Source: News24

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