Europe wildfire risk heightened by early heatwaves and drought

Prolonged drought in several Mediterranean countries, last week’s heat wave in northern Germany, and high fuel costs have raised concerns about the fires in Europe this summer.

Cataligne Stoff, a professor of environmental sciences at Wagengen University in the Netherlands, says wildfires are “very challenging throughout Europe” and that much of the continent is in a state of drought.

Last summer, more than 4,250 square kilometers of land in Europe was set on fire – four times more than Luxembourg. Half of the damage is in the EU.

Deforestation near Miranda de Arga in northern Spain

And, according to experts, European wildfires are not just a problem for southern and tropical countries.

Catherine Gamper, an expert on climate change adaptation at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says:

Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been destroyed by wildfires around Spain, although recent low temperatures have helped firefighters control the blaze.

Spain’s problems begin with the first heat wave in two decades.

Temperatures above 40 C are higher than in August in many Spanish cities.

Firefighting plane crashes at a fire at San Martin de Unix in northern Spain (AP)

Neighboring Portugal has also seen the hottest May in nine decades and the hottest month in France.

The World Meteorological Organization said last week that “due to climate change, heat waves start earlier and become stronger and stronger because of the accumulation of greenhouse gases with high temperatures.”

What we are seeing today is a foretaste of the future.

Despite extensive planning, early warning monitoring and forecasting models, preparation for wildfires remains a major challenge. The EU is expanding its fleet of helicopters and helicopters this summer and is expected to partner with several countries outside the bloc.

A man sees a wildfire near the village of Cochili beach near the village of Limni on the Greek island of Evija (AP)

“It is very difficult to predict wildfires,” said Martha Arbinolo, an OECD policy analyst and climate adaptation and resilient expert.

“We know that the 2022 winter weather forecast will be particularly hot and dry and probably over 2020 or 21, which is the hottest and hottest summer in Europe,” she said.

“We can expect the risk of wildfires in Europe to be very high in the winter.”

In Greece, which suffered one of the worst fires in Europe last August, the rising cost of fuel has added to the challenge for firefighting services, which rely on drones to fight fires in the mountains.

Greece will start using fire hydrants this year, with the European Union sending more than 200 firefighters and equipment from France, Germany and four other countries to Greece all summer.

Trees burn in the city of Vola in southern Athens, Greece (APA)

Seasons of wildfires are also prolonging.

“The concept of fire season is losing its meaning now. We have a fire season all year long,” said Victor Resco de Dios, a professor of forest engineering at Leida University in northeastern Catalonia, Spain.

“The major changes we are seeing in climate change are the longer the fire season.”

According to OPCW Gamper and Ms. Arbinolo, some catastrophic fires have led to positive developments, such as the European Union’s Civil Protection System, which facilitates rapid cooperation between emergencies.

They say European countries are opening up to disaster risk reduction in their plans instead of simply developing their firefighting resources.

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