Greece, United States… record heat affects millions

More than 30,000 people had to flee the flames, “the largest evacuation operation ever undertaken in Greece”, on the hugely touristic island of Rhodes, crushed beneath a furnace of fire.

Since the beginning of summer, millions of people in the Northern Hemisphere are suffering from the heat. According to the European Observatory Copernicus, the first fortnight of July was the warmest fortnight on record and the month of July, globally, from the United States through Europe to China, is on track to be the hottest July in history.

In Greece, where firefighters have identified 46 new fires in 24 hours, fires are raging for a sixth day this Sunday 23 July east of Rhodes, an island of 100,000 inhabitants very popular with British, German or French holidaymakers, especially in the Dodecanese archipelago.

Relief Saturday was the “biggest evacuation operation ever” carried out in the country, which continued overnight from Saturday to Sunday. About 30,000 people left their homes, including hotels, of which 19,000 left their homes as a precaution. 3,000 were evacuated by sea.

12 neighborhoods gutted in fire

In total, twelve areas were abandoned, including Lindos, famous for its acropolis on a hill. During the night, the flames reached the village of Larma and spread to the coastal villages of Kiotari and Gennadi Lardos.

German Paul F, 23, told daily Bild that he and his friend Lara “escaped the fire” “at the last moment” on Saturday.

After dozing off on the beach, they discover that “the beach and the swimming pool (of the hotel) are deserted”. They run to the hotel, pack their belongings, then wait for help at reception, where wet towels have been distributed to protect themselves from the fumes.

“There were embers flying around our heads and there was no help in sight. I felt like I was alone, it was very hot and the smoke was already so thick that we couldn’t last more than ten minutes,” he said. “Some people in panic have tried to find boats to go (…)”. But eventually the buses arrived.

unprecedented heat wave

The Greek Foreign Ministry has opened a crisis unit in Athens to facilitate the repatriation of foreigners. TUI, the world’s number one in tourism, and British company JET2 suspended their tourist flights to Rhodes on Sunday but will send their planes empty to be able to evacuate tourists on the island. Dutch tour operator Corenden announced similar disruption, according to local media.

According to officials, several days are still needed to bring the fire under control, especially since the wind, which is fanning it, “should strengthen between noon and 5:00 pm (2:00 pm GMT)”, firefighters warned. Temperatures are expected to exceed 44°C in Greece this Sunday.

“We will probably experience 16 to 17 days of heat, which has never happened before in our country,” Kostas Lagovardos, research director at the National Meteorological Observatory, said on Saturday. The meteorological services announced on Saturday that the sea surface temperature was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above normal.

Progress in the United States

The heat wave continues in the United States as well, where the weather services (NWS) forecast temperatures of 41 degrees or higher this weekend, affecting about 80 million people.

The thermometer can soar to more than 46°C in Phoenix, Arizona (southwest), which is currently experiencing its longest heat wave ever: Friday, the 22nd consecutive day over 43°C.

500 kilometers away, in California, Death Valley and its highest temperature on the planet attract tourists, tourists want to take their picture with a screen in which the mercury is always displayed at its highest level. Some are waiting for the absolute record on Earth – 56.6 °C recorded there in 1913 – which some experts have disputed.

A 71-year-old man died earlier this week and Death Valley National Park rangers suspect “the heat played a part” in his death, which would make it the second person of the year under these circumstances.

The United Nations has called on the world to prepare for “more intense heat waves”, urging everyone to prepare their “control plan” to face these extreme day and night temperatures, as temperature records were broken around the world on Tuesday, 18 July.

Forecasters said Beijing broke a 23-year-old record for temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius for 27 consecutive days. In Iraq, maximum temperatures in the center and south of the country reached more than 45 °C and sometimes 50 °C. Basra, located in the far south of the country, will have a temperature of 50 degrees on Thursday.

Floods and marine heat waves in Canada

In Canada, four people, including two children, have been reported missing in the eastern province of Nova Scotia, the scene of record flooding due to torrential rains, according to police.

According to NASA’s chief climatologist Gavin Schmidt, the hottest July on Earth is on its way, not only since measurements, but also for “hundreds, if not thousands, of years”. This, he said, is not just due to El Niño, a cyclical weather phenomenon that originates in the Pacific Ocean and causes a rise in global temperatures.

For this expert, extreme temperatures will persist because “we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”. And heat waves don’t just affect the land. According to the US Oceanographic Administration NOAA, in July, 44% of the world’s oceans experienced marine heat waves, a record since 1991, with the proportion estimated to reach 50% by September–October. The global ocean temperature is about 21 °C, which is close to the absolute record (21.1 °C). From the end of May, temperatures reached 24.5 °C, with persistent heat waves in the North Atlantic, off the Bay of Biscay and Portugal. Ocean warming threatens to weaken and profoundly alter marine ecosystems already vulnerable to global warming.

Compared to the pre-industrial era, the world is experiencing global warming close to 1.2 °C due to human activity, primarily the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).

(with AFP)


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