Heat wave, drought raise fears of wildfires in Europe

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

And only June.

“Most of the continent is in a state of drought,” said Kateljine Stoff, a professor of environmental sciences at Wagengen University in the Netherlands.

More than 11,000 square kilometers (4,250 square miles) of land was burned last winter – more than four times as much as Luxembourg. Half of the damage is in the EU.

And, experts say, European fires are not just a problem for southern, tropical countries.

“Scientists warn us that in the north and in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia, wildfires are more likely to occur in the future,” said Katherine Gamper, an expert on climate change adaptation.

Tens of thousands of hectares of land have been destroyed by wildfires around Spain, although recent high temperatures are helping firefighters cope.

Spain’s problems begin with the first heat wave in two decades. Temperatures rose above 40 C (104F) in many Spanish cities in August.

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

The World Meteorological Agency said last week that due to climate change, heat waves start earlier and increase in intensity as the amount of greenhouse gases increases.

# The threat of wildfires in Europe has been exacerbated by the previous heat wave, # Drought. # Heat waves # Wildfires

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 European Union (EU) is expanding its fleet of helicopters and helicopters this summer to provide cross-border support, and is expected to partner with several countries outside the bloc.

“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 summer (winter) weather forecast will be particularly hot and dry and possibly more than 2020 or 21, which is the hottest and hottest summer in Europe. During the summer, wildfires in Europe can be extremely dangerous.

In Greece, which suffered one of the worst wildfires in Europe last August, high fuel costs have added to the challenge of firefighting services, which are heavily dependent on aircraft 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.

Seasons of wildfires are also prolonging.

“The concept of the fire season is now losing its meaning. We have a season of fires that was badly hit by the summer fires.”

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

Laura Vilagra, a senior Catalan government official, told a regional conference that firefighting measures could include closing the park.

“Every year the weather gets worse, and this year’s drought is very clear,” she said. “We are looking forward to a very complex winter.”

Resco now predicts the worst-hit areas: “It is likely that in the early part of the century, there will be less fires in Spain. why? Because forests are so small. There was nothing to burn. “

Other professionals are not so scary.

The OECD Gamper and Arbinolo, some of the worst fires in the world, have led to positive developments, such as the European Union’s Civil Protection System, which facilitates faster cooperation between countries at risk. They say European countries are opening up to disaster risk reduction in their plans instead of simply developing their firefighting resources.

“The main need for integrated fire protection, not only during the dry season, but also throughout the year, is to pay attention to fire and to invest in landscaping,” Stoof said.

Gamper appeals to two things that she says will have a big impact. First, reconsider the city plan by not building high-risk forests.

“I think our first appeal to countries is really to think about where you live,” Gamper said.

“Second, enforce your rules. Countries know what to do.

Derrick Gatopolos from Athens, Greece. Hernan Munoz Ratto contributed from Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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