Explained | Wildfires and heatwaves raged around the world in July

A recent study noted that the recent heatwaves sweeping across America and southern Europe would not have happened without climate change

August 02, 2023 03:10 pm | Updated August 17, 2023 09:33 pm IST

Multiple wildfires have been raging across Northern Hemisphere in the past month, even as many countries across Europe, Asia and northern America have been experiencing record-high temperatures.

Multiple wildfires have been raging across Northern Hemisphere in the past month, even as many countries across Europe, Asia and northern America have been experiencing record-high temperatures. | Photo Credit: AP

Multiple wildfires have been raging across the Northern Hemisphere in the past month, even as many countries across Europe, Asia and northern America have been experiencing record-high temperatures. 

The frequent wildfires and soaring temperatures are expected to have been exacerbated by climate change.

Also Read | Dangerous heatwaves strike globe as wildfires rage

A recent study noted that the recent heatwaves sweeping across America and southern Europe may not have happened in the absence of global warming.

The same study stated that the heat-trapping gasses released from burning coal, oil and natural gas have made heatwaves in China 50-times more likely to occur with a chance of taking place every five years or so.

It further highlighted that the unusually strong heatwave in Europe became at least 2.5°C hotter while the one raging through the US and Mexico was 2°C hotter. Even in China, the heatwave was 1.8°C warmer.

Watch | How wildfires are ravaging the world

Spain

Spain, among other Mediterranean countries, has been bearing the brunt of wildfires, particularly hard. 400 firemen battled a fire in the Canary Islands that forced 4,000 people to flee and forced others to wear face masks. one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. In Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands blazing wildfires have reportedly ravaged 400 hectares of woodland. At least, 400 firemen battled a fire in the Canary Islands that forced 4,000 people to flee and forced others to wear face masks.

On July 18, Spain recorded the highest temperature since 1928 at 45.4°C in the town of Figueres. Overall temperatures rose up to 45°C during the peak of the heatwave, a report said.

Italy

Italy is also facing extreme weather events that are occurring in both the northern and southern regions of the country. The Palermo airport in Sicily has been closed down due to raging wildfires. Authorities have reported more than 55 wildfires on the island leading to the closure of motorways, The Guardianreported. Sardinia and Calabria have also reported dozens of fires while evacuations were ordered.

Temperatures in Italy touched 47°C on July 24 as the country battled an intense heatwave, along with wildfires and storms. At least five people have died while working due to the extreme heatwave happening in July.  

In the north, Lombardy is being battered by severe storms that have already killed a woman and a sixteen-year-old girl. Strong winds have caused widespread damage in the northern regions of the country which includes Milan. There have been reports of roofs being ripped off of several homes while large hailstones damaged the nose and wings of an airplane that was heading to New York. 

Also Read | The West’s iconic forests are increasingly struggling to recover from wildfires – altering how fires burn could turn that around

Greece

Wildfires which were initially confined to the islands of Rhodes and Corfu spread towards the mainland with the city of Volos facing a large brunt of the crisis. Outlying villages and industrial areas were evacuated and residents were asked to stay indoors due to smoke inhalation hazards.

A wildfire further south prompted the precautionary evacuation near the outskirts of Lamia.

On the islands of Corfu, Evia, and Rhodes, where thousands of visitors were relocated to safety over the weekend. An interior natural reserve has been harmed by the fire on Rhodes.

Wildfires have also spread across pine forests and olive groves on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu resulting in damages to properties and businesses.

Temperatures rose to 44°C in Greece over the last week as strong winds hindered firefighting efforts. The Ministry of Labour banned outside work during afternoon hours. Archaeological sites too were shut across the country. 

Croatia

In the country’s south along the Adriatic Sea coast, a wildfire was raging a few kilometres from the renowned walled town of Dubrovnik. Water-dropping planes and more than 100 firefighters contained the flames before it spread to homes overnight.

Portugal 

More than 500 firefighters battled against a wildfire in Lisbon, Portugal. Along with 800 farm animals, 90 people had to be evacuated from their houses due to the fire.

On July 26 the fire in the seaside town of Cascais, 30 kilometres west of Lisbon, was brought under control after the temperatures cooled.

Also Read | Smoky haze blanketing U.S., Canada could last for days as wildfires rage, winds won’t budge

Syria

Conflict-ridden Syria has also not been spared from the ravages of wildfires. Boosted by strong winds and high temperatures, the country has been hit hard by wildfires in July. Firefighters struggled to put them out in Homs and Hama in mid-July, and the fires in Latakia raged for five days before rescuers could control it.

Turkey

In the seaside town of Kemer, Turkey, firefighters put out a fire that was blazing for three days through woods, 12 residences and a hospital were evacuated out of caution. At least 10 aircraft and 22 helicopters were sent to the scene.

Water-dropping aircraft, helicopters, and other resources were deployed to put out a forest fire on July 26 in Istanbul’s Beykoz, where temperatures rose to 43°C (109.4). It wasn’t immediately obvious what started the blaze on the Asian side of the city, and it was also unclear whether or not residential areas were in danger.

In the western coastal province of Izmir, teams were also putting out two fires close to the towns of Kinik and Odemis, according to Anadolu. As a precaution, at least three communities close to Kinik were evacuated.

Canada

Meanwhile, the wildfire season in Canada has been breaking records. According to a report, there are 639 active fires burning in Canada, 351 of which are out-of-control in the first half of July with an unprecedented number of locals forced to leave the region. At least 3,412 fires have been reported so far this year, significantly more than the 2,751 average over the previous ten years, according to a report.

Also Read | Wildfire smoke may warm the Earth for longer than we thought

The flames have consumed an area almost the size of the state of Virginia, or 8.8 million hectares.

July has been extremely hot for Canada this year with temperatures reaching 37.4°C even in the far north regions such as the Fort Good Hope in Northwest Territories. 

Meteorologists have said that the temperatures recorded across Canada that the recorded temperatures are higher by several degrees than previous records. The Northwest Territories has already seen 17 temperature records broken in the first nine days of July. A total of 18 records were broken in July of last year. 24 records were broken in June 2023 as opposed to four in June 2022.

China

In another continent, a township in northwest China recorded a scorching 52°C on July 17, Reuters reported. It broke a previous record of 50.3°C recorded in 2015 near Ayding in the depression, a vast basin of sand dunes and dried-up lakes more than 150 metres below sea level.

For several weeks, China has been experiencing heat waves which have been more widespread and extreme than in previous years. 

The country’s capital, Beijing, has also been buffeted by superstorm Doksuri leading to flooding for the fourth straight day. More than 50,000 people in the city have been evacuated so far, according to a report.

United States

A severe heatwave has been sweeping through the U.S. for the past weeks with sweltering heat and humidity as temperatures soar. This week, the midwest and northeast reported experiencing high temperatures that were previously prevailing over the western and southern parts of the country.

Temperatures are predicted to creep over 40°C in cities such as Washington DC, Philadelphia and Boston. Meteorologists have also warned about “oppressive humidity” which will make it higher than the predicted temperatures. Nighttime temperatures are expected to be at least 10°C to 15°C hotter than usual, a report said. 

Extreme heat waves have also caused a number of heat-related deaths. At least seven people have died due to high temperatures since last week, a news report said. The total number of deaths has reached 25 so far, it added.

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