After the hottest June ever recorded and a series of extreme weather events, data from Copernicus Climate Change Service’s ERA5* shows that the first three weeks of July have already broken several significant temperature records. The high temperature has caused heatwaves in Europe, North America, and Asia, as well as wildfires in Canada, Greece, and also in northern Africa.
The temperature in regions of Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and North Africa reached a level classified as ‘Very Extreme Danger’ in the EFFIS Fire Risk Forecast. Several heat-related deaths have been confirmed in the USA, including migrants at the Mexico-US border. In Mexico alone, over 200 people have died due to the extreme heat.
Many people in Italy and Spain, along with over 100 million individuals in the southern United States, are under a heat alert. This increase in temperature has led to higher energy consumption in these areas and has also negatively impacted crucial crops, such as olive oil in Spain and cotton in China.
The high temperature across the Mediterranean region, along with strong winds, has created favorable conditions for a series of wildfires in northern Africa, with Algeria and Tunisia being the most affected areas. The country that suffered the most consequences from the heat was Algeria, with over 30 people killed, including 10 firefighters, and around 1,500 people evacuated in nearly 100 fires. Most of the fires were under control by July 26th.
In Algeria and Greece, Fire Radiative Power data reveals clear peaks on July 24th, driven by the intense heat. Additionally, Morocco also faced above-average forest fires, which began early in the month and persisted until mid-July.
FIRES IN GREECE
The high temperature threatens Greece with its hottest heatwave on record, according to authorities, and the forecast indicates there will be no relief in the coming days, which may result in increased pollution. The CAMS PM2.5 forecast shows ongoing emissions in the next days, with Rhodes Island being particularly highlighted.
As revealed by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service’s Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS), wildfire emissions related to temperature in Greece increased significantly on July 17th. In addition to the major wildfires that occurred in Attica, near Athens, smaller fires were also reported in various regions of the country, such as Evia and Corfu. These incidents happened while the Mediterranean was experiencing an unprecedented heatwave.
Due to the high temperature, the Total Fire Radiative Power was considerably higher compared to the average of the last 20 years. On that date, the increased temperature and more severe wildfires emerged west of Athens and on the island of Rhodes, forcing nearly 20,000 people to evacuate their homes, according to information from the Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection.
According to the CAMS GFAS records, carbon emissions from wildfires in Greece reached their highest levels in July, with a significant temperature difference compared to previous years. By July 25th, over 1 megaton of carbon had already been emitted.
The wildfire season due to high temperature in Greece recorded the largest burned area ever documented, with over 35,000 hectares affected, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). Copernicus Sentinel satellites captured images showing the extent and intensity of the Greek wildfires, revealing the large scar of the fire in Attica on July 19th, along with the temperature.
Scientists from the World Weather Attribution initiative researched to assess to what extent society-induced climate changes transformed the likelihood and intensity of extreme temperatures in July in these three regions. It is inferred that the impact caused by a heatwave is only noticed a few weeks later as it is necessary to wait for death certificates to be collected or for scientists to analyze excess deaths to gain a clear view of the temperature-related consequences.
According to IPCC reports, heatwave events are common nowadays. North America, Europe, and China have experienced an increase in the frequency of heatwaves in recent years as a result of warming caused by human activities and their implications on temperature.
Man-made climate changes have made these heat events more common. In China, it would have been an event of about 1 in 250 years, while in the US/Mexico regions and southern Europe, the extreme heat, as seen in July 2023, would have been virtually impossible without the warming caused by fossil fuel emissions and their implications on temperature.”